When it came to light that it would be Taysom Hill and not Jameis Winston, the questions came. From those who know Sean Payton well to those around the NFL: Wait, what?
Why would the backup not be the backup?
After conversations with several people involved in the situation, an explanation became clear as to why Hill, the do-it-all weapon, is expected to start at QB vs. the Falcons.
“Sean just wants to know,” said one source with a deep knowledge of Payton’s thinking.
That’s it. Of all the factors, that’s the main one. Nevermind that Hill is, in fact, considered the backup on the depth chart.
The Saints have featured Drew Brees as their starter since 2006. They gave Hill a two-year, $21 million contract this offseason with the thought that he’s the future, but no one knows for sure. And they won’t until the lights come on.
So, Payton, who identified Hill’s talents immediately off film from his time with the Green Bay Packers, wants to know if Hill is his starter for 10 years or not. The process begins today.
As for Brees, he was placed on injured reserve on Friday and is out at least three weeks. Dealing with several fractured ribs and a puncture in his lung, Brees is expected to return in 3-4 weeks. The Chiefs game in Week 15 is a realistic return date, though Brees hopes it’s a week earlier against the Eagles, sources say.
Until he’s back, it’ll be Hill, unless it goes particularly poorly this week. If that happens, Payton could turn to Winston again.
Hill took first- and second-team reps in practice this week, with the Saints making sure he got the full preparation for the biggest start of his life. While practice went well and Hill seemed prepared, he did battle nerves early on in the week. At one point, it seemed like the enormity of the situation might overwhelm him.
But he settled in and had a solid week. Expect Hill to find Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas early on short passes to get him in a rhythm and find success.
It is the biggest day in the career of Hill, who the Saints claimed in 2017 after he was released by the Packers. He was quickly identified as a player the team may want to claim. Payton, in particular, took a liking to him and believed there was potential.
Three years later, Hill has his chance. How it goes could have a major impact on the next decade in New Orleans.