A divisive, 30-year-old gadget quarterback who’s never started a game suddenly looks poised to take over the Saints offense
20th November 2020

Taysom Hill

  • The New Orleans Saints are starting utility man Taysom Hill at quarterback on Sunday.
  • Head coach Sean Payton once compared Hill to Steve Young, but has mostly used him as a gadget player.
  • With a start on Sunday, Payton finally has the chance to show the rest of the world what he's seen in Hill.
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New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will finally get to prove to the NFL world what he's been holding back for three years this Sunday.

According to reports, the Saints are set to start Taysom Hill at quarterback this week against the Atlanta Falcons as Drew Brees remains on the sidelines due to injury.

The news comes as a surprise to many football fans that expected Jameis Winston, who has plenty of experience as a starting quarterback, to take the job. Still, Payton has instead turned to Hill, his favorite toy in the offense, to become it's featured star.

Hill is a unique football player, as is his role in the Saints offense. Hill is a utility man unlike any we've seen in the NFL in recent years, taking snaps as a quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, and special teams. On offense, Hill can be seen lined up in the slot on first down or taking a direct snap in third-and-short situations, or anything in between.

What makes Hill a somewhat controversial player is Payton's insistence on his greatness. Ahead of the 2019 season, Payton compared Hill, a utility player that at that point had attempted just one NFL throw, to Steve Young, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game.

"Well, if you look back at Steve's career, and people don't remember his time before he came into the NFL, you had a very athletic player that I think advanced when he got to San Francisco," Payton told ESPN. "And he always had great ability with his legs."

To his credit, Payton has put his money where his mouth is with regard to Hill, even before handing him the starting reins on Sunday. This past offseason, the Saints re-signed Hill to a two-year extension worth $21 million, making him the second-most expensive backup quarterback in football. Payton has also, time and time again, shown his faith in Hill by putting him on the field in big spots.

Taysom Hill.
AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio

If the Saints were a middling team with a middling quarterback, switching things up with an oddball lineup to make defenses think twice might be a more understandable move. But several times over the past few years, Payton has taken Drew freaking Brees off of the field in a must-gain situation in favor of putting the ball in the hands of a positionless player.

When it works, Payton looks brilliant, but when it fails, it's tough not to wonder if the Saints might have been better off leaving the guy who has thrown more touchdown passes than any other player in the history of the NFL on the field for a potentially game-deciding play.

Thankfully, this Sunday, football fans should get some real answers to just how good Hill is as a quarterback. Should he succeed, maybe the Saints really have found their quarterback of the future. Should he struggle, Payton will still find a way to get the most out of him once Brees can take the field again.

For what it's worth, it's also possible that this is all just a smokescreen from Payton to get the Falcons defense thinking one way or another. Hill might start the first few plays at quarterback and then cede the role to Winston as the game rolls on.

But hopefully, that's not the case, and we finally get to see what a game started by Taysom Hill looks like at the NFL level. Payton said it could be reminiscent of Steve Young. Actions speak louder than words.

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