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How do you replace a legend like Drew Brees? If you’re the Saints, you hold an open competition between the league’s most prolific interception thrower and a running back with a red jersey; at least until Aaron Rodgers swoops in to save the day next year.
Head coach Sean Payton has grown accustomed to incredible consistency under center, so the changing of the guard must be driving him insane. Add in the dogged NFL media cycle, which reads into every little flinch like a woman stalking her blind date online, and you get answers like this to the constant barrage of quarterback questions:
“I don’t have a timeframe. When we know what direction we’re going, we’ll let you guys know,” Payton said. “We’re not going to try to anticipate saying, ‘Hey it’s gonna be midweek or next week.’ That’s, I think, the best way for us to handle it. It’s kind of how we’ve always handled something like this.”
Translation: like Matthew McConaughey sipping vodka and explaining the market in The Wolf of Wall Street, Sean Payton doesn’t have a clue whose stock is going up or down. Nobody does. In the NFL, you’re always one weird play away from either a season-ending injury or a playoff berth. Same goes for starting quarterbacks. Unless you’re coaching a future Hall of Famer, you really have no idea what you’re getting from week to week from any of these guys. It’s the most insanely difficult, overanalyzed position in all of sports—the only role on any team that may in fact be comprised of more intellect and swagger than actual athletic ability.
No matter who Payton chooses, that player is going to have flashes of brilliance and games that would make Pepé Le Pew blush. With Winston, you get a natural arm talent and traditional pocket presence. If you go to Publix with him, you also get 2-for-1 crab legs and his fingers in the shape of a ‘W’ for dessert. The guy just never seems to have his head screwed on right. On the other hand (which hopefully hasn’t been eaten by Winston in the name of victory yet), you have Taysom Hill, Brees’ former bouncer and current Greco-Roman wrestling partner to Tim Tebow. His head seems perfectly screwed on; in fact, there’s nothing I’d rather do than open a Planet Fitness with Hill and go into business with the man, but do I really want him noodle-arming out routes and scrambling on third and long? I’m not even a Saints fan and that sounds more miserable than a grilled Po’ Boy or a masked lap dance on Bourbon. I’d rather get a parking lot COVID shot in a leftover New Orleans FEMA tent than back an NFL wildcat offense on the road.
All in all, it’s going to be a long season for Payton trying to squeeze every drop of greatness out of these two ‘manager’s specials’ at quarterback. Maybe Winston turns around his perception, like Teddy Bridgewater has done in Carolina and now Denver. Maybe Hill makes a living picking up three yards at a time and running a flag football offense. Either way, don’t be surprised to see this team sputter a bit on offense while Payton schemes for his next quarterback to groom.