…or at least one where either side has an equal chance of winning.
Contrary to popular belief, there is not an open quarterback competition for the New Orleans Saints.
I know what Sean Payton is saying. I know the team and the players – Jameis Winston included – have said that Winston and Taysom Hill are competing for the starting quarterback job in 2021. There’s even a chance the players, coaches, and front office all believe there’s a legitimate “competition” as the two quarterbacks head into camp. But even if this were true, it’s just not a competition that one particular side has any chance of winning.
Before we explain why the “competition” between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston isn’t legitimate and what it actually is, let’s talk about what it isn’t.
Let’s pretend Taysom Hill didn’t exist and the competition was between Jameis Winston and Trevor Siemian. What happens if Siemian outplays Jameis at quarterback in training camp and the preseason? Well, Siemian becomes the starting quarterback and Jameis becomes his primary backup. And what happens if instead Jameis wins the starting job? That just means Siemian becomes the backup.
Now we can compare that to the Taysom and Jameis situation. If Taysom were to outplay Jameis at quarterback, it’s a pretty simple scenario: Taysom Hill is your starting quarterback and Jameis Winston rides the bench as Hill’s backup. But what about if Jameis wins the role? Jameis becomes the starter, but does Taysom sit quietly on the bench? Not likely. Instead, if Jameis Winston is the Saints starting quarterback, Taysom sees time – albeit likely less time than when Drew Brees was quarterback – under center, at wide receiver, at tight end, blocking on the line, and on special teams. Essentially, Taysom as a full-time quarterback means Taysom isn’t your Jack of All Trades/Swiss Army Knife.
What this boils down to is this: Taysom can’t “win” the quarterback competition because he can’t simply outplay Jameis Winston to earn the starting quarterback job. No, he has to not just play better than Jameis Winston at quarterback, but he has to show he’s more valuable to the Saints as a quarterback alone than he is to the Saints as a QB/RB/WR/TE/ST player with Jameis Winston at quarterback. You might think that if Jameis is the Saints’ starter in 2021 that Taysom is just a backup and moves out of his role everywhere else, and that would be believable but for the presence of the aforementioned Trevor Siemian. With a third quarterback on the team in Trevor Siemian, Sean Payton and the Saints can afford to play Taysom in the way that gives the Saints the best chance to win.
And that’s why this isn’t a real competition – the deck is stacked against Taysom from ever having a chance to win. We’ve seen how valuable he can be to the team when he’s used sporadically on offense. We’ve also seen his struggles as a starting quarterback. To “win” the quarterback competition in this year’s training camp, Taysom Hill wouldn’t have just beat Jameis Winston. He would have to beat Taysom Hill – not Taysom Hill the quarterback, but Taysom Hill who can do everything else.
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