For 15 years, the Saints rarely had to worry about their starting quarterback. Drew Brees became their starter after signing as a free agent during the 2006 NFL off-season and holding that post until he retired after the 2020 season.
Brees missed just 12 games in his 15 years with the Saints. Nine of them came in the last two seasons, but even when Brees was healthy there was no doubt he was their quarterback.
Now, in 2021, the Saints may have the most troubled quarterback fight in the NFL as Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill battle for the starting job. And Sean Payton seems content to let her do that.
So far, Payton has been impressed by both quarterbacks during training camp.
“Both guys are working their heads off, they are very respected by their teammates, they are really, really good leaders,” Payton told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. “And that’s good.”
Payton has three preseason games to rate Winston and Hill. What has he said about her so far? Here’s everything you need to know about the Saints quarterback battle as New Orleans gets closer to syncing its successor from Brees.
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What Sean Payton Said About Jameis Winston
Winston didn’t start for the Saints when Brees went down last year. Hill received that honor instead. But even after that decision, Payton was firmly convinced that he would have felt comfortable starting Winston.
“Jameis is definitely a starter,” Payton said on Saints Wire. “He did an exceptionally good job considering how long we’ve had or haven’t had since we signed up.”
He added that the decision to leave Winston on the bench was something he considered every game.
“I and we as an organization love what we’ve seen from Jameis,” said Payton, “and that puts a strain on you every game.”
Winston was a free agent in the 2021 off-season, but the Saints were able to sign him again after Payton made it clear that New Orleans wanted him back.
“Often you want to hold your cards closer to your waistcoat [with a] Free agent, “said Payton, according to ESPN’s Mike Triplett.” But he along with Taysom Hill, we’ve been saying it all along, we’re going to develop and coach these guys. And Jameis is one of those guys we’re really interested in. “
Payton didn’t say much about Winston during training camp. He has spoken about him in conjunction with Hill, but has not commented specifically on Winston’s performance. However, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael called it a “quick study” and noted how Winston’s work with self-exploration has helped him improve.
“Every year I have the chance to explore myself. But I’ve had so many people to scout out this year, ”said Winston. “I mean, we had Tom Brady on an offense that I played the year before. We had Matt Ryan on an offense with (formerly Bucs coach) Dirk Koetter in Atlanta. We had Drew Brees on that offense. And then” we had Teddy (Bridgewater) in (a version of) Sean’s offensive in Carolina.
“I’ve seen four great quarterbacks perform in these systems. So I was able to take some things from them. I was able to take some things that I learned from my experience of these attacks and of course from this more recent offensive with Sean.” So it’s been an amazing year for me when it comes to learning football as a whole. “
Perhaps Payton will stay with Winston’s mom to keep his quarterback choice a secret. That said, his comments on Hill were more copious.
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What Sean Payton Said About Taysom Hill
The world first saw Payton’s love affair with Hill in March 2020. Payton mentioned that the Saints viewed Hill as a future starter, with Drew Brees entering what appeared to be the final season of his career.
“I think Taysom sees himself as the starting quarterback in this league and so do we,” Payton said on ESPN’s Get Up.
It shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise, however, when Payton chose to start Hill for four games during the 2020 season, with Brees out. Hill led the Saints to a 3-1 record as a starter, averaging 208.5 yards and one TD pass per game. He added 52.3 rushing yards and a rush TD per game.
Why did Payton then decide to start Hill over Winston?
“My thinking was a commitment I made to Taysom in the off-season,” Payton said.
There was no such commitment from Payton that year. Even so, Payton was impressed by Hill during camp. Does he think Hill has improved year on year?
“Yes. Absolutely,” Payton said after Saints training on August 11th. “He’s getting a lot more work with it now.”
Payton touted the quarterback’s extra reps as a reason for Hill’s progress. In previous years, the team had given him reps at quarterback and tight end, among other things, so Payton believes the extra work has led to his “gradual improvement”.
“He’s coming faster with his progress,” said Payton. “I think the reps on this offense are what he needs. I think both [Hill and Jameis Winston] have effectively brought the ball across the field at times. Overall, as you step in and out of the huddle, you will see a gradual improvement as you progress from the primary to the secondary goals [Hill] in these areas.”
Payton seems impressed with Hill, but that doesn’t mean Hill is leading the quarterback fight. It’s more likely that Payton is closely watching the Saints preseason games while looking for a passerby to earn his edge.
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Who started the Saints’ first preseason game?
Taysom Hill started the Saints’ first preseason game. He started the game well, marching the Saints across the field, completing 4 out of 5 passes for 62 yards. That included a 23-yard hit for Marquez Callaway.
The Saints failed to score due to a Latavius Murray fumble, but Hill had the Saints in the goal area, within the 10-yard line.
His next two trips didn’t go nearly as well. He threw an ugly interception on the fourth down that was way out of reach of a wide open Ty Montgomery.
On the following drive, Hill led the Saints to eight yards in nine games. He finished his night 8 of 12 for 81 yards and an interception. He didn’t try a run.
Winston came to Hill and played similarly. He went 7 of 12 for 96 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception. His best throw was a 33 yard win for Juwan Johnson.
After the game, Payton declined to comment on the quarterback fight, citing the Saints’ overall poor performance as part of the problem.
“I’m not making comparisons with the quarterbacks right now,” Payton said. “It doesn’t matter who really [played better] with six turnovers, right? “
Who will start the Saints’ second preseason game?
Jameis Winston will play for the Saints against the Jaguars on Monday night. New Orleans manager Sean Payton confirmed the assignment on August 20. Winston starts as part of a scheduled rotation with him and Taysom Hill.