If Sean Payton is serious about Jameis Winston as the future, now is the time to make it work
Year after year, fans of quarterback-needy teams around the NFL look at QBs on the chopping block and go “I can fix him.” For the first time since 2006, Mickey Loomis and the New Orleans Saints are in this position, as they look to replace a Hall of Fame arm in Drew Brees. There’s not shortage of players whose names have been mentioned to helm the offense for the black and gold next year, but history is not on the side of those who want a reclamation project at quarterback.
Some telltale signs a quarterback is a reclamation project are talking about how poor his coaching was at his last destination, saying he just needs a change of scenery, and mentioning his impressive arm talent but questionable decision-making. Two of the bigger names we’ve seen brought up in these conversations have been Mitchell Trubisky and Sam Darnold.
Darnold, of course, was traded to the Panthers on Monday for several draft picks (a 2021 sixth and a 2022 second and fourth). Darnold will ostensibly be taking over for Teddy Bridgewater, as Joe Brady hopes to revitalize his career. Darnold, who spent last season as a tank commander, has thrown double digit interceptions in 13 or fewer games started in every season of his career. He’s never looked fully comfortable, although there’s almost no question Brady will be a step up from Adam Gase in play-calling.
Trubisky is 29-21 as the Bears starter, but his 6-3 record last year — including a 3-1 run to end the season — has some people talking about him as a player who can make the difference. However, make no mistake. The Trubisky we saw in a 21-9 playoff loss to the Saints is what you get if you go for him full-time. Trubisky was 19 of 29 passing for 199 yards and a garbage time touchdown in a wholly uninspiring performance.
The Bears were a team defined by defense during Trubisky’s tenure, and his struggles weren’t enough to put the Bears over the top. Furthermore, we now know the capital involved to acquire a player like Trubisky, and it will now likely be a bit more as Trubisky is coming off of a recent run of success. The Saints simply can’t afford to part with draft picks right now for a myriad of reasons, not least of which is that they’ll need to hit in the draft to stay competitive given the numbers their extensions are requiring to get done.
None of this is to say Trubisky is a completely lost cause. Matt Nagy’s tenures as head coach had been marred by bizarre decision-making and questionable play-calling. But the Saints simply don’t have time to fold in another quarterback.
Seeing what they have in Jameis Winston is the best option at this point. He’s familiar with the Saints, he knows the weapons, and most importantly, Sean Payton has faith in him. No one was beating the drum to re-sign Winston as hard as Payton was. Going for bad quarterbacks because they can fix them is what bad teams do. The Saints aren’t a bad team.
The transition may not be pretty, but you can’t look at every struggling quarterback on the market and see Ryan Tannehill. He ended up in the perfect position to succeed. Sometimes, you just need to call things as they are. Trubisky and Darnold could do well elsewhere. But they aren’t worth the capital it would cost to get them or the risk of letting the window for the Saints close a little more after this season.
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