It’s Taysom Hill Time In New Orleans. For Better And For Worse
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
By Tayyib Abu.
Ten years on from the onside kick, Sean Payton has pulled the pin on his biggest gamble since. That gamble paid off as it brought New Orleans their first championship in its history. Now, the veteran head coach has bet it all on Taysom Hill.
The former BYU man has been given the nod to replace the injured Drew Brees. Hill has fewer NFL pass attempts than Jake Luton. It is a massive risk to take. Hill could inspire the Saints or he could fail.
Nevertheless, Hill is now quarterback number one. The New Orleans Saints are all-in on Taysom Hill. That's right - the destiny of the 2020 Saints season now rests in the hands of Hill.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE
Sean Payton has been fascinated with Taysom Hill since he saw Hill play for the Packers in a pre-season game. New Orleans claimed Hill off waivers, and he has been in the Big Easy for four years.
Initially, Hill was a special teams player, the majority of his snaps came on that unit. But, last year saw Hill step up on the offensive side. His snap count jumped from 182 in 2018 to 241. Hill's standout performance came in the playoffs as he proved he could do it all against the Vikings. The running, receiving and passing ability was on display, and the Saints might've won that game, had we seen more of Hill.
Sean Payton has likened him to Hall of Famer Steve Young. In the offseason, New Orleans inked Hill to a two-year deal worth 21 million dollars. With that money given to him, it is clear that the Saints hierarchy believes in Hill.
Taysom Hill is no vanity project for Sean Payton; they firmly believe in him. When you pay a backup quarterback that type of money, this decision makes complete sense. With Brees guaranteed to miss at least three games, Hill was the only choice to fill in for him. The Saints have to find out if the 30-year-old quarterback is ready to fill the void and keep the Saints marching.
WHY IT IS A RISK
It's a significant risk because the Saints are not the only competitive team in the NFC South. The Bucs are chasing New Orleans for the division. And it's not only the division at stake, but the NFC is also incredibly top-heavy.
Green Bay, Seattle, Arizona and LA are all chasing the number one seed. The one seed comes with the all-important first-round bye; the bye will go to only one team, for the Saints this is critical as the bye week may give them a crucial advantage over the opposition. The last three years, New Orleans has looked tired come the postseason, and they have lost each time devastatingly.
Hill last started at quarterback in 2016; now he is tasked with leading a team to the division title. It is a high pressured spot for anyone to be in, as there are three years worth of playoff frustration in New Orleans. 2020 is an all or nothing year for New Orleans. Now the Saints turn to a player who is effectively a rookie to guide them for the foreseeable future. Hill has a vast amount of pressure on him; he must deal with the scrutiny and attention.
WHY IT WILL WORK
It will work because Taysom Hill is an exceptional athlete. He has the build of a middle linebacker who runs with high speed. His 40 yard time at a pro day in 2017 was 4.4 seconds; it would've been the best time of all quarterbacks in that years combine.
When Hill gets past the line of scrimmage, he is a difficult man to stop. He is a physical, downhill runner who resembles a bowling ball rolling down a steep bank. Against the vaunted Tampa Bay defence, Hill averaged 7.7 yards when carrying. His longest carry in that game was for 23 yards where he hurdled and rumbled his way past the Bucs linebackers.
Hill doesn't mind initiating contact, and no player enjoys tackling him. Over the season, Hill is averaging 5.5 yards per carry; this is more than good enough to keep the offense ahead of the chains. I expect to see a healthy mix of inside and outside zone runs. Hill is a patient runner, and on the outside stretch runs, he hits the open hole with serious physicality.
Hill is a talented runner, but we have no idea how good his passing ability is. There have been a few instances in the NFL where he has passed, his arm has looked fine, but it is far too small a sample size to glean anything from it. The advantage he has over Jameis Winston is that Hill knows the offense and the coaches know him better than Winston. Hill should also have a better understanding of the elite weapons around him.
However, the most significant help to Hill is to have Sean Payton as his Head Coach and play-caller. Payton is one of the best play-callers and play designers in the NFL - we have seen this when Hill has entered games. The Taysom Hill package of plays are creative, well planned and very well executed. Now Payton has had a full week to install a gameplan for Hill and his unique abilities.
The variety of personnel packages New Orleans can now use is fascinating. With teams worrying about Kamara and Hill as runners, it can open up a treasure chest of options. We could see Kamara receive more work out of the backfield or even line up as a receiver when the Saints are in two tight-end sets. The Saints could run the ball out of empty sets on QB draws with Hill; there could be a lot of RPO usage, and in Kamara, Hill has the best weapon alongside him.
Even when it is a passing play, look for Payton to scheme something where Hill can use his legs if he needs to. The Saints can’t call bootlegs with Brees under center due to his lack of mobility. With Hill under center, New Orleans can use so much more of these plays.
On designed rollouts or bootlegs, the pocket can get moved and open up opportunities for Hill to make plays with his legs or have easier completions to make. With Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders available to him, the passing offense could get very creative. Sanders has come from an extraordinarily well-designed offense in San Francisco, and this could be a strong game for him.
Hill is mobile enough to move the pocket on designed plays and if he is then able to force linebackers to be concerned about him running; it could open passing windows for Thomas, Sanders, Adam Trautman and Jared Cook. With Hill on the field, New Orleans have a decisive tactical edge on offense.
WHAT IF IT FAILS?
If it fails, the Saints may not be in as big a trouble as what you might think. New Orleans' next three games are against the Falcons twice and Broncos. If Hill is not able to adapt to being the starter or the offense is not in sync with him, New Orleans should still be ok. The team went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater last year, the offense is still highly talented, and the defense has finally come to life.
The Saints defense has put the clamps on opposing offenses in the last two games. Even if Hill struggles, the Saints have more than enough talent around him to step up and win games while Brees is injured. Trey Hendrickson is having a breakout year, while David Onyemata is playing at Pro Bowl level.
On offense, Sanders is looking more and more comfortable as he adjusts to a new team while Thomas is getting better and better with every game he plays. Regardless of the quarterback, the Saints will still be well-coached and well organised and will have enough to beat Atlanta.
IS IT ONE RISK TOO MANY? I DON'T THINK SO
Sean Payton knows what the stakes are for the Saints this year. It is Super Bowl or bust. He'd have not decided this if he didn't feel it was the right one. Yes, Jameis Winston is the more experienced quarterback, but it is clear Coach Payton believes in Taysom Hill.
There will be tricky moments, Hill will have bad throws, but there will be some highlight-reel moments too. For better or for worse, Payton and the Saints are all-in on Hill. Like a good poker player, Payton has shocked his opponents.
The Head Coach has had a lousy hand given to him; now, he's pushed all his chips into the middle of the table. We might think this is madness, but like all good gamblers, Payton is the most confident man at the table. And that is all that matters.