New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill is one of the most interesting, highly-covered, and controversial characters the NFL has seen in a while (at least that didn’t involve legal trouble). Part of what makes Taysom fascinating is the hyperbole and coverage around him, and while that’s an interesting topic with roasts to be handed out (basically EVERY sports show talking head has some type of idiotic quote around him at this point), that’s not what we’re going to focus on here. As much as the story and the coverage of Taysom is interesting, I’d much rather focus on what we know about him after 3 games and how I’d like to see the discussion around the PLAYER be focused going forwards.
I’ll start this by framing things around a quote that has been attributed to Coach Sean Payton by multiple members of the media. Apparently Sean has stated that he thinks Taysom Hill can be a Steve Young-type QB, and this quote has been chopped up, taken out of context, and used for headlines (again, not what we’re doing here). This quote however, does a great job of framing what I really want to talk about with Taysom. The difference between potential and expectations. Taking things at their face your potential is what you could be, and your expectations are what you’re most likely to be. The conversations around Hill have become so hyperbolic and clickbait centric that we’ve yet to have this simple conversation, and with that said, lets dive into it.
Taysom Hill’s Potential
This is without question the aspect that generated the above quote from Sean, and its the easiest part to see. Your potential is simply the combination of the things you are capable of doing compared to the things that you struggle with. Obviously there is a deeper analysis into how you weigh one aspect versus another, how certain things matter more positionally, how to optimize attributes, there’s a lot that can go into the details, but at the end of the day potential is nothing more or less than raw ability.
Before he actually got to play quarterback Taysom’s potential was more theory than reality to most of us. We knew he was strong, we knew he was tough, we knew he plays the game with passion and his teammates love/respect him, and we knew he has legit speed. What we didn’t know is if he can do the two most important things a QB has to do: throw the ball and read defenses.
What we have seen over the last three weeks is Taysom Hill can mechanically operate from within the pocket like a real QB and go through his progressions. We have seen him throw with velocity and accuracy, occasionally with touch, and as of Sunday’s game against Atlanta we’ve seen him operate on 3rd down with great efficiency and poise. We have now seen Taysom hill demonstrate a level of quarterback play and ability that a player like Tim Tebow never could, and that means that his potential to be a starting QB is very legit.
Potential doesn’t mean Taysom WILL be that player, but he’s shown the ability to be that player.
Are we ready to talk expectations for Taysom?
Ability doesn’t mean production though. A popular expression in sports is that potential has gotten more coaches fired than anything else. The question with Taysom should no longer be can he play quarterback in the NFL, he’s shown he has the ability. What is now the question is can Taysom Hill be the Taysom Hill from the first 3 quarters against the Falcons the majority of the time, and almost never the player we saw the last 5 minutes or so. The results you produce with the greatest consistency is what you should be expected to be.
There is simply not enough data on Taysom Hill to build a reasonable projection of what his expectations should be. His potential tells you what they could be, and it shows that Sean Payton wasn’t just blowing smoke, Taysom has the goods from an ability standpoint. The question he’s now going to have to answer is whether he can continue to improve and can eliminate crippling mistakes from his game. Reasonable expectations are built from having a large enough sample size to say “hey, this guy is going to do X most of the time”. We don’t have that yet, but we have enough to at least eliminate the people saying he can’t play the position.
Something really important to understand about this conversation as it goes forward is that there are guys taken in the first round of the draft every year who have the ability to play QB in the NFL. Most of those players fail to play that position well enough, consistently enough, to keep the job. That is what is most interesting about Taysom, but also most frightening, because while he has shown he has the ability to play at a high level, he’s also shown a tendency to put the ball on the ground like he’s playing marbles. So as of right now the only thing I expect from Taysom Hill is some great highlights, and for him to likely significantly increase the levels of my alcohol consumption.
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