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Did Sean Payton’s infatuation with Taysom Hill cost the Saints the NFC top seed?

The New Orleans Saints are currently 3-1 with Taysom Hill as the starter. But, is he the reason they relinquished the top seed in the NFC?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints fell to 10-3 on the season while also falling into the second seed in the NFC after a 24-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The first loss in ten weeks also marked Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill’s first loss in his tenure as the starter in Drew Brees’s absence. Now, instead of being in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the NFC, they now will have to rely on the Green Bay Packers to drop games heading into the final three weeks of the season.

Since Brees exited the Week 10 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans fans have made their opinions known on who the starting quarterback should be. In reality, head coach Sean Payton already had a contingency plan in place for an extended Brees absence, and his name is Taysom Hill.

Hill is the player who the Saints placed a first-round tender on this offseason. That tender, coupled with the propaganda from the team, was seemingly to entice a team to sign him and in return send a first-round pick to New Orleans. When that didn’t work out, the team doubled down and gave Hill a two-year, $21 million deal that really made the league and nearly every Saints fan realize this team might actually believe in Hill as much as they were letting on.

Therefore, when Brees went down with 11 fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, Payton already had his pet project in place. Yes, Jameis Winston took over at halftime for Brees in the 49ers game, but he was never the long term solution for 2020. Instead, Hill took the field as the starter the next four weeks, twice against the Atlanta Falcons separated only by a matchup with the Denver Broncos.

The first three weeks were essentially a honeymoon period for Hill and New Orleans. A 3-1 start, no matter how rocky they may have been, saw Hill getting the job done. Much of the criticism surrounding the backup quarterback was his decision making, progression speed and his turnovers in the way of fumbles. Yet, he always seemingly doing just enough to earn the victory over opponents.

Then came the start against the Eagles. The subsequent loss, the dropping of the first seed in the NFC and the added scrutiny of the decision of who should be the starting quarterback not just in Brees’s absence, but in 2021 and beyond became the narrative. Other than the question of whether or not the Brees will return in Week 15 against the Chiefs, the biggest question has been should Winston be afforded the start over Hill against Kansas City if Brees isn’t ready? In reality, the most important question is has Payton’s infatuation, and possible arrogance surrounding Hill, costed New Orleans the number one seed in the NFC?

It is really easy to point fingers at Hill who is the replacement quarterback. That is the nature of the position he plays. When the team has success, the praise is heaped onto the quarterback. When the team experiences adversity, the failure is thrown onto the quarterback’s shoulders. But, when Hill was winning not many were clamoring for Winston to take over his job. Yet, as soon as Philadelphia dropped an upset in a classic “trap” game, now the fans and media want a quarterback who has not seen the field for more than a few snaps this season to start against what is arguably the best team in the NFL.

Instead, how about we look to the “number one” defense in the NFL and the offensive playcalling by Payton. We at Canal Street Chronicles have talked about it multiple times this week, but the defense clearly believed that Eagles rookie backup quarterback Jalen Hurts and an awful offensive line would be no problem for the top defense in the league. A lack of motivation and drive, along with a dose of arrogance, is what helped contribute to the Saints loss to a 3-8-1 Philadelphia team.

Furthermore, the offensive playcalling by Payton is just as much to blame. Hill is a serviceable starter, but he needs plays called that suit his strengths. Instead, the play calling was stale which lead to a 17-0 deficit at halftime. It has also contributed to Hill’s fumble issues, which in the last four weeks he has started he has also boasted the most amount of fumbles in the NFL. Some of that is on him, but much of it can be contributed to play calls that put him in precarious situations.

At the end of the day, Hill has proved that he can be a more than effective quarterback, which was a question that held doubt even two months ago. It is entirely possible that Hill’s true value lies in the utility role and Winston is the starter in 2021. But, for 2020 purposes, Hill was always the right decision, and he is by no means the reason New Orleans now sits in the second seed. Payton’s infatuation with Hill is a little odd, especially since he isn’t a prototypical quarterback that Payton has been known to enjoy working with in his career.

However, Taysom has done his job admirably, and Payton made the right decision for the current situation. Hill, and Payton’s infatuation with him did not cost New Orleans. Instead, it can all be traced back to a lack of preparation on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs will provide a good opportunity for both squads to prove who they really are and put up a fight.

What do you think of Taysom Hill so far? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Instagram at @SaintsCSC and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KadeKistner.