Sean Payton’s been the head coach of the New Orleans Saints since 2006. Over the 218 games he’s coached for New Orleans, he’s amassed a 139-79 record (63.5 win %), he’s taken the Saints to three NFC Championsip games (and was one missed tackle away from a fourth), and he’s led this franchise to its one and only Super Bowl appearance and win.
Maybe he knows what he’s doing.
When news broke that Taysom Hill was going to be the Saints starting quarterback on Friday morning, it was met with a lot of hesitation, confusion, and bewilderment. After all, when Brees went down versus the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, presumed-backup Jameis Winston took nearly every snap of the second hall, while Hill didn’t even throw a single pass. Jameis is also the former first overall pick, the former Heisman Trophy winner while at Florida State. He’s the man that threw for 5,000 yards on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Taysom Hill is just a gadget player that had thrown 18 career passes for the Saints heading into the weekend.
There were a myriad of takes heading into the weekend. First of all, let’s see the reaction from our friends at The Falcoholic.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, there was cause for hesitation. It was fairly reasonable to wonder exactly what caused Sean Payton to choose to start Hill over Winston. That all being said, there were some absolute bangers of excuses that people came up with to try and justify it. The first one coming from Steven Ruiz, who contemplated that the Saints were going to start Taysom Hill due to financial reasons.
Jameis has 1.8 million in playing time incentives in his contract. For a team that is up against a shrinking cap, the decision to start Taysom Hill could be a financial one.— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 20, 2020
This one makes sense if you think about it for more than five seconds. Oh, the Saints don’t have cap money next season. Jameis makes money if he plays Sunday. We can’t have that. But by then brain power will generally kick in and realize that the incentives for one game aren’t fully worth the $1.8 million Steven Ruiz has listed. Since my personal knowledge of the cap is limited, I’ll rely on the outstanding Nick Underhill to lay it all out.
He can make at most $110,000 this week, and that’s if the team improves upon its total passing or rushing yards.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) November 21, 2020
They like Taysom enough to pay him $21 million to wait a year. I promise they aren’t making a decision over $110,000. https://t.co/uh0Cf1o266
The Saints aren’t making a decision over $110,000. Bingpot. The Saints, in what is likely Drew Brees’s last chance at a ring, aren’t going to squander it all over just over $100k. They’re doing what they think is best to win. Ruiz, doubling down, then unleashed a take from the heavens.
I’ve been informed that there isn’t too much money at stake in the short term, so we can just chalk this one up to white privilege. Sorry for making that mistake saints fans.— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 21, 2020
Shockingly, Ruiz wasn’t the only one letting this one loose, as the reanimated corpse of Deadspin also let this particular take fly after the news broke on Friday.
Look, this is not an argument that white privledge doesn’t exist in this world. In fact, it very much does! Even in football, while it may not look like it, white privledge is still a problem, particularly in coaching circles (if you don’t believe that, ask yourself if Hugh Freeze would be back coaching again if he was black. The answer is no). I’d even be more willing to lend credence to this idea if the Saints were starting say, Blaine Gabbert. Or Brian Hoyer. Or any quarterback that has proven himself over time to be objectively worse than Jameis Winston.
Taysom Hill is a player that Sean Payton has raved about since he became a Saint way back in 2017, when the Saints had their third string quarterback returning kicks. He’s a player that’s had his role slowly grow over time to the point where he was the Saints best player during their playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings back in January. He’s been in the system for four years now, and Sean Payton clearly trusts him.
And Taysom Hill delivered. Oh did he. Hill finished 18/23 (78.3 comp %) with 233 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. He did have a fumble in the second half and he was bailed out a few times by his receiving corps, but HIll showed promise, particularly in his intermediate passing, to the point where it’s not going to be a question on if Hill starts next Sunday’s game vs the Broncos.
Hill didn’t just trot out running the exact same offense that we’ve seen Drew Brees run over the first part of the season. Payton changed up the play calling, went with play action and more passes 10+ yards downfield. He didn’t go into this game expecting Taysom Hill to be Drew Brees. He wanted Taysom Hill to be Taysom Hill.
40 % of Taysom's dropbacks Sunday were off of play action, via PFF. He went 9/10 for 168 yards on these plays. (Also had a 57-yard TD off of PA that was called back for holding).— Canal St. Chronicles (@SaintsCSC) November 23, 2020
Sean Payton, who usually doesn't call a ton of PA for Brees, played to his QB's strengths yesterday.
Which brings me to my final point.
Maybe we just need to trust Sean Payton. The man has the pedigree and is one of the best coaches in the NFL right now. Not every decision he makes is perfect. There have been one too many tight end screen passes in my lifetime and he can be one to taunt opposition a little too easily. He’s the absolute definition of a coach that fans of his team love, and fans of opponents loathe (skol). However, Sean Payton continues to prove he’s one of the more brilliant offensive minds in the game, one that’s not afraid to experiment if the time calls for it, and one that puts absolute trust in his players to make the plays he asks them to. After 14 successful years of being the New Orleans Saints head coach and primary offensive playcaller, he’s earned the right to make, what on the outside, looks like a questionable decision. Because, as we say on Sunday, maybe the man knows what he’s doing.
Plus, he knows when to stick it to Roddy White. And in the end, that’s really all that matters.
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