For the first time in a long time, the New Orleans Saints will enter training camp later this summer with a true quarterback competition.
Taking over for a certain Hall of Famer is never an easy proposition. It's usually better for one's career to be the guy who follows the guy trying to replace a legend. Living up to the outsized expectations created by one of the greatest of all time is a difficult spot.
Hill and Winston are expected to be on equal footing once the competition gears up. Hill started four games in 2020 in place of Brees, with Sean Payton previously saying he'd promised the do-it-all QB a shot at the starting role if Brees had gotten injured. Winston came in relief when Brees got hurt in a Week 9 win over the San Francisco 49ers, but has more starting experience after five years in Tampa Bay.
Brees, in a conference call to discuss his new job as an analyst with NBC Sports, said he, like everyone else, is looking forward to the Saints QB competition. He wouldn't handicap the battle.
"I'm really excited for the opportunity that both Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston have," Brees said, via the team's official website. "I can't tell you how much fun we had together as a quarterback room, really a great group of guys, a great group of human beings, guys that really love the game of football, love their teammates. We loved to work hard, we loved to push each other. It was highly competitive (but) at the same time, we were all there to support one another and help one another because we just wanted the team to win.
"As you saw last year, there were moments where Taysom had to start and did a phenomenal job for four games. There was a moment where Jameis had to come off the bench in the second half of the 49ers game when I had the ribs and the lung injury. He came in and did a phenomenal job. I've seen so much growth and maturity from both of those guys, over the last few years for Taysom and then last year for Jameis. We'll see how it plays out. It sounds like there's going to be a pretty good quarterback competition, but it's going to bring out the best in both of them."
Brees' expectations echo those from the Saints' head coach this week.
In four starts last season, Hill completed 71.9 percent of his passes, generating 260.8 combined pass and rush yards per game, 1.3 turnovers per game and a 96.9 passer rating. While the offense is more exotic with Hill under center given his running ability, the 30-year-old must improve as a passer to secure the starting role. The QB missing what should have been easy tosses to Alvin Kamara -- who had some of his worst games when Hill was under center -- had Saints fans ripping their hair out.
Winston has 70 starts under his belt, completing 61.1 passes for 291.6 combined pass and rush yards per game, averaging 1.5 turnovers per game and compiling an 86.7 passer rating. The turnover-prone QB has a big arm and is fearless in the pocket. Whether Payton can curtail the turnovers if Winston gets a full-time role is unknown at this stage. In his one extended relief situation last season, Winston looked skittish, completing 6-of-10 passes for 63 yards and took two sacks. The sample size and situation, however, is too minuscule to project how he'd work full-time in Payton's offense.
As Brees noted, the Saints are set to have one of the most intriguing QB competitions of the offseason when players finally hit the field for training camp this summer.