Now that the Saints have officially inked Jameis Winston to a one-year deal worth $12 million, it’s no secret that there’s an open quarterback competition in New Orleans. Last season, Taysom Hill got reps in the four games that Drew Brees missed with a myriad of injuries — chief among them cracked ribs — but Sean Payton has sung Winston’s praises and now that he can design an offense around his starting quarterback it won’t be that simple.
One of the biggest arguments against Hill getting the permanent starting job is that Hill is severely neutered when he’s under center. He isn’t able to play as physically, and his footwork as a pure quarterback is suspect at best. The offense has to be more innovative to make Hill work, but the Saints still have the talent to run a more conventional offense.
The Saints don’t really know what they have in Winston yet, although Payton has been nothing but high on him. Winston’s arm strength is noted, as is his gunslinger mentality. If a quarterback has a 30 touchdown - 30 interception season under his belt, he’s capable of making big plays and stupid choices. Payton’s offense isn’t friendly to stupid decision-making, but it isn’t impervious to it either, as we saw in the 7-9 years. Will LASIK help Winston see the field? It’s hard to tell, and there haven’t been enough reps to sort that out.
The question isn’t whether or not Winston should be starting quarterback. He should be. The question is how he should be implemented in. The Saints cannot fall back into the high-volume, maniacal style Payton ran with Brees in the mid 2010s, nor should they play the conservative, grind-it-out style they played in the twilight of Brees’ career. Rather, they should meet in the middle. Let Winston be a 3,000-3,500 yard passer, sure. But don’t let him become a double-digit interception player as he has been throughout his career.
The weapons are in place for Winston. With Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, he has the baseline of his offense. The offensive line remains largely intact, although who’s to say for how long with Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk needing huge paydays soon. But there will be a transitional phase for the Saints without Brees. There has to be. Winston will make that transition less painful.
With how often Hill runs the ball, he simply commands too many touches under center to be the best option for the Saints offense moving forward. Winston allows the Saints to continue to be themselves, while bringing back some of the flash that the late 2000s and early 2010s Saints had.
Is Winston a long-term answer? That’s impossible to say right now. There’s a reason the Saints signed him to a one-year deal. But he should at least get a chance in this new environment. He’s said and done the right things with the Saints, the locker appears to be enamored with him. Now he just needs to put up in 2021 so the Saints can see what they have in him.
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