Taysom Hill threw a couple of touchdown passes for the first time in his career against a beleaguered Atlanta Falcons secondary on Sunday and now believes he’s ready to be a full-time starting quarterback in the NFL. At least, that’s what he told Mike Florio after the Saints escaped with a narrow 21-16 win at home against the 4-8 Falcons.
“Coach [Payton] and I have had, we’ve had a few conversations about that. And I have said that [he views himself as a full-time starter]. He knows how I feel about how I can play and I know how he feels about me, too.”
It’s great that Hill believes in himself. It’s warranted, too. He’s won three starts since Drew Brees got injured and has accounted for 6 touchdowns and only one turnover during that span. However, he hasn’t faced an elite opponent thus far and hasn’t lit up the average defenses he has faced either. Coupled with his specific playing style, which requires an offense that plays heavily to his strengths, and his advancing age and it seems extremely premature to say he’s anyone’s quarterback of the future.
So far, Hill has faced the Falcons’ defense twice and the Broncos once. In those games, he’s averaged 181 yards passing on 71.0 percent completions and 58.6 rushing yards. He’s thrown for two TDs with one INT and rushed for four touchdowns. The Saints’ offense has averaged 25.3 points per game during that time. Not exactly starting-caliber numbers there and when you dig deeper they look even worse.
The Falcons defense ranks 30th in passing yards allowed per game (285.2), 27th in yards allowed per game (394.4) and 17th in points allowed per game (25.2). Hill and the Saints faced them twice in three weeks and didn’t come close to exposing their secondary or putting up the kind of numbers most quarterbacks do. In fact, even Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky combined (Foles got hurt in the game) to throw for more yards against them than Hill. Drew Lock put up bigger numbers, too. Meanwhile, established starting quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Matt Stafford torched the Falcons secondary. Hell, even Teddy Bridgewater, Hill’s predecessor, threw for over 300 yards on them.
When the Saints took on the Broncos, Denver was without an NFL-caliber quarterback because of COVID and their defense is more susceptible to the run than pass so the Saints game plan didn’t call for Hill to throw much. Still, completing only 56.3 percent of your passes and finishing with 78 passing yards and an interception isn’t exactly what you look for in a starter facing an opponent on their heels.
The other factor we haven’t discussed is how quarterback-friendly the Saints’ system is. Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter for New Orleans last year and averaged 241 passing yards per game on 69.7 percent completions. He threw for nine TDs against one INT in those five starts.
Bridgewater parlayed that performance into a lucrative contract with the Panthers last offseason to be their starting quarterback and has enjoyed a solid, though not outstanding, season this year. The difference is he is a pocket passer whereas Hill is a mobile quarterback who operates best on the move. Hill’s legs are a bigger factor in his success than his arm and, for a player who is already 30-years-old, that’s not a viable long-term option for a team looking to build around a new quarterback.
Perhaps the Saints really are all-in on Hill leading their franchise after Drew Brees retires. His contract suggests it. Hill signed a two-year, $21 million extension this offseason with over $17 million guaranteed and a cap hit of over $16 million next season if the Saints cut him. That ensures he’ll be around for at least one more year. After that? It’s anyone’s guess.
The combination of Hill’s age and playing style make it highly unlikely he will ever get the opportunity to be a full-time starting quarterback in the NFL outside of New Orleans, and possibly outside of this stretch. He’s done well in his limited appearances thus far, but as defenses start catching up to what the Saints are doing, and as Hill absorbs more hits, the challenges will only increase.
Hill is a starting quarterback today and has every right to believe he deserves to be a starting quarterback in the future. But reality doesn’t always match desire and that will likely be the case for Hill no matter what he believes.