New Orleans Saints second-year quarterback Ian Book didn’t have the NFL debut any QB would hope for. He was moved into a starting position while 25 players and several coaches were unavailable due to health and safety protocols.
12 completions on 20 attempts for no touchdowns and two interceptions isn’t the stat line that Book had hoped for in his first action. No quarterback, regardless of number of starts, would like to be sacked eight times either. But for Book, that was his reality.
However, he that reality was only temporary for him. As he looks ahead, the Week 16 loss to the Miami Dolphins doesn’t define his goals and drive moving ahead.
“It didn’t go the way any of us wanted it to go.” Book told me on Super Bowl Radio Row last week. “Just to be out there to get the experience, I feel like I learned a lot of the field and [I’m] really excited for next year.”
There was a clear comfort evident in speaking with Book, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. One of the biggest talking points going into his start against Miami was whether or not his confidence would take a shot.
Ahead of that game, with meetings going virtual and the practice week being heavily impacted by the COVID outbreak across the facility, Book hadn’t thrown a pass to a receiver running full speed until pre-game warm-ups.
The Saints fielded their sixth and seventh tackles in the game including Kyle Murphy (three snaps) who was added to the team day of. Former head coach Sean Payton said after the loss that there were players getting fitted for equipment in the locker rooms before the game began.
“It’s just the world we’re living in now with COVID. You’ve got to be ready.” Book said about the game.
So no, the winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history’s NFL debut didn’t go as planned. But that hasn’t stopped him from looking ahead and planning to compete.
The New Orleans Saints will have a big question to answer this offseason now that the head coaching spot is filled. Who will be the quarterback moving forward? Whether for a year or as the face of the franchise, the Saints will need to find their solution at the position. Newly elevated head coach Dennis Allen called it “priority number one” for the next few months.
But Book sees the opening as an opportunity to take advantage of.
“I am. Yes.” A simple and quick response, but a fervent and impactful one when I asked him if he was looking at this offseason as a chance to step into a starting role.
“Yes. I plan on going in there and getting reps and showing what I can do.” Book said. “I’m excited to go in there and play and show it.”
As for that concern around confidence loss after that Miami game, there seems to be no doubt in Book’s mind. He’s ready to battle it out this offseason.
The Saints currently have two quarterbacks under contract aside from Book; Taysom Hill and Blake Bortles.
Hill started nine games at quarterback in 2021 while appearing in a total of 12 at various positions. All told, Hill produced well with a 7-2 record as a starter, completing 58.2% of his passes (78/134), for 978 passing yards and four touchdowns. Deal-threat that he is, he also added a total of 70 rushes for 374 yards and five more touchdowns.
Hill’s season was plagued by injuries, most of which he played through as best he could. Finally, a Lisfranc injury in the final game of the season would have sidelined him for a playoff run.
Blake Bortles is signed to a reserve/future deal. That means he’s promised a spot on the training camp roster this summer. Bortles feels more like a veteran backup with playing experience, something the Saints covet highly.
Whether or not the Saints will pursue trades for signal caller options that may or may not hit the market this season, or if they’ll be able to bring back Jameis Winston remains to be seen. The latter feels possible, but there are a lot of variables ahead.
Whomever ends up accompanying Ian Book in the locker room, on the practice field, and eventually in the Caesar’s Superdome will be joined by a competitor. For that, there is no doubt.
“I feel a lot more comfortable. You get a year under your belt and it really makes a big difference. So, I’m excited for it.”
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