Sean Payton explains why Jameis Winston is the Saints’ starting QB over Taysom Hill
New Orleans coach points to Winston’s ability to move the offense and score points as to why he beat out Hill
For BYU fans hoping Taysom Hill would finally be getting his chance at an NFL starting gig, last week’s reports that Jameis Winston would be the New Orleans Saints’ starting quarterback was a tough, though not unexpected, pill to swallow.
On Tuesday, Saints coach Sean Payton made it official. In an anticlimactic announcement, Payton told reporters, “Jameis is going to be our starter. He’s done a great job, he’s earned that.
“Both he and Taysom competed their tails off. It’s always difficult when you don’t have the full offseason that you’re looking for or the full preseason, but we feel real good about that room,” Payton added, per the team’s website.
Why Winston earned the starting job
Winston and Hill, the former BYU dual-threat standout, spent the offseason challenging each other to replace the All-Pro Drew Brees. Winston had a noticeably better preseason, leading the Saints to four touchdown drives in two games to just one for Hill. The Saints’ third preseason game was canceled by Hurricane Ida.
“The No. 1 thing is leading your offense and moving the ball and scoring points,” Payton said, in describing what stood out in choosing Winston as the starter. “We feel like he’s got the unique skill set with his arm talent where he can get the ball down the field. He’s done a really good job of working through some of the progressions.”
Winston completed 16 of 22 passes during the preseason for 219 yards and three touchdowns to go with an interception, and his stat line in New Orleans’ second preseason game — 9 of 10 passing, 123 yards, two touchdown passes, with a 157.5 QB rating — really stood out.
While Hill had some success, his performances were more uneven, as he finished the preseason completing 19 of 32 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
How Hill will fit in to the Saints’ offense
In his four years with New Orleans, Hill has mainly served as a utility player who could line up at several positions, including quarterback. Payton said he feels he’s built a good dialogue with Hill, which helped in delivering the tough news about the quarterback decision.
“The very first thing any player wants to know is, ‘What’s your vision for me? What do you see?’ And I also think they want honesty in your evaluation, they want honesty in the vision,” Payton said about Hill’s role with the team this season. “And so, I’ve got a very clear vision relative to how he’s going to help us this year, no different than the vision we have with Jameis. Those two are both going to be extremely important if we’re to play well and win games this year.”
Can the Saints utilize both Winston and Hill?
Payton sounded optimistic the Saints will be able to utilize both quarterbacks’ strengths. Winston, who started five seasons for Tampa Bay, is more of a natural downfield passer, as evidenced by his career numbers of 19,812 yards and 121 touchdowns passing.
Hill, meanwhile, is able to contribute in a variety of roles, though in years past he moved around on offense when he mainly served as the team’s third quarterback. As a backup, would Hill be used less as a jack-of-all-trades-type player, to help minimize the risk of losing their backup quarterback?
“One of the challenges is they’re two entirely different players. So going into games with two different kind of mindsets, relative to how do you help each one play well,” Payton said. “So we’ll look closely at the things that we feel like Jameis does really well, and then very closely at the things that how we want to utilize Taysom and positions we want to play them.
“I know this was asked a lot and I understand the question relative to, well, if Taysom is your quarterback, you’re going to lose all the other things he can do. Yeah, that’s true. And yet, we couldn’t make the decision just based on that because if Taysom were to become that quarterback and continue to improve — and I do think he’s going to be in that room working at that position — but we just wanted to look at it completely from an open-eye standpoint and just trust our gut with it.”