It’s been a longtime since Taysom Hill first graced the field for the New Orleans Saints as a kick returner during the 2017 season. What was once a hilarious anecdote about the former BYU quarterback playing special teams for the Saints turned into a cult following over the next few seasons, with Hill doing everything from blocking punts to catching touchdowns as the Saints went on their quest to get Drew Brees one last Super Bowl title, with Hill happy to do whatever was asked of him.
In 2020, however, Hill was asked something bigger than he was used to, as when Drew Brees went down against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10, Taysom Hill was asked to take the reigns at quarterback starting with the Week 11 game against the Atlanta Falcons. While Hill obviously wasn’t going to be as good as the future first ballot hall of famer, Hill stepped up when needed, helping the Saints go 3-1 in his four games starting en route to the Saints winning a fourth division title in four years.
Hill’s passing stats when called upon were solid yet unspecatcular. He finished the season going 88/121 (72.7%), 928 yards for 4 TDs and 2 INT. However, per usual, Hill’s biggest threat came with his legs. With 87 runs for 457 yards, Hill finished 5th among all quarterbacks in rushing yards while his 8 rushing touchdowns were 3rd among all quarterbacks, tied with apparently now elite Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Hill was also one of just four quarterbacks to catch a touchdown pass this season (along with Allen, Cam Newton and Dak Prescott). Granted, those players took the majority of their snaps at quarterback this year, while ~33% of Hill’s snaps came from positions other than the QB spot. That’s what makes Hill so unique to talk about, his ability to play all over the offense. There are few, if any, players like him in the NFL. And thus, we don’t exactly know what the future holds for the former BYU man.
The Saints will likely go into the 2021 season needing a new quarterback. With Hill being the man that was called upon in the four games Brees was injured, Payton will surely consider putting Hill out there as his new signal-caller. Payton has in the past sung the praises of Hill, and while he wasn’t perfect in his four-game audition in November, one thing that’s important to bring up is that those four games were Hill’s first four starting at quarterback since his senior year at BYU in 2016. There’s reason to believe Hill could, with a full offseason under his belt, bloom into the man to take the helm for the Saints for the next few years until Payton finds someone to take his place.
There’s also reason to believe Hill as the Saints full-time quarterback would be disasterous. The most obvious of that being the problem Hill faced when being asked to simply hold onto the football. Hill, who fumbled twice in his Saints career up to 2020, fumbled the ball 12 times this past season, most notably in the Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. In the four games started by Hill, he fumbled the ball six times and he also managed a six-game fumble streak from Week 9 vs Tampa Bay to Week 14 vs Philadelphia. He only broke that streak vs Kansas City because he played 3 snaps, and capped off his 2020 season by fumbling against the Bears in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Only time will tell if that was an outrageous one season fluke or the result of having Hill on the field more, however that’s not a question the Saints want to find the wrong answer to.
Hill’s entering the final year of his contract in 2021, set to make $10 million while counting as $16 million towards the Saints noted cap space issues. A trade before June 1 could see the Saints save $12 million, or roughly 13% of the $90 million they need to get under the projected salary cap. While it’s unlikely we see Hill traded, it would be in the Saints best interest to ask around and hear what other teams have to say.
All in all, Hill remains a polarizing figure among the Saints fanbase and among NFL talking heads alike, because no one really knows what to make of a player so unique. It’s clear the Saints’ redzone woes were missing him after his injury forced him to miss the playoff loss vs the Bucs, however just having a redzone rushing threat isn’t worth the $16 million he’ll count against the Saints cap in 2021. As fun as Taysom Hill is, the Saints might need to move on from him, or risk losing more important pieces.
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