Over The Hill?

Over The Hill?

Over the Hill? 

This old saying can be looked at a few different ways, but in the same context.

Are you old enough to be called “Over the Hill” or are we as Saints fans over the Taysom “Hill” because Drew is back? The Saints are trying to answer a similar question with Taysom Hill. New Orleans handed the starting quarterback duties to Taysom Hill, who to this point had primarily taken snaps as a trick-play quarterback, tight end, and key special teams piece. Now Drew is back and we are all wondering again, who is going to take over when Drew retires because he is “Over the Hill” or is Taysom too close to being “Over the Hill” to take over for Drew? So many “Hills” to climb while the Saints are running out of time.

This Taysom Hill experiment could shape the NFC playoff race and alter the trajectory of this season. It could also chart the course for the Saints’ future. Brees will turn 42 in January and is nearing retirement. Fellow New Orleans quarterback Jameis Winston is on an expiring contract. Hill, meanwhile, is under contract through 2021 after New Orleans gave him a $16 million extension this offseason. The next few weeks will determine whether the Saints entrust the next few years to a player who is 30 years old and is slowly but sure approaching the “Hill”.

Who will take over? This question is not being asked only to the Saints, but a number of NFL teams. Lets focus on the Saints for this article.  Drew Brees is no doubt a Hall of Fame quarterback. Following the 2005 season, Brees left the Chargers as an unrestricted free agent and signed with the New Orleans Saints, inking a six-year, $60 million deal. For a city and a fan base still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Brees was lauded for his decision. 

Brees remained among the best at his position for the next decade. In 2018, at the age of 39, he surpassed the NFL career records for completions (set by Brett Favre) and passing yards (set by Peyton Manning). That year he also completed a personal-best 74.4 percent of his throws and earned a 12th Pro Bowl selection, though the season ended in disappointment with a controversial loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

Along with his passing skills, Brees proved his durability by appearing in at least 15 of 16 regular-season games in every year from 2004 to 2018. That streak came to an end when he sustained ligament damage in his thumb early in the 2019 season, but he showed no signs of rust after returning in late October, compiling 373 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Lets climb the “Hill”

Claimed off of waivers from Green Bay at the conclusion of the 2017 preseason by the Saints, Hill has provided value to New Orleans in multiple spots on both offense and special teams. His role continues to expand as he serves as an integral part of both units. In 2019, Hill carried 27 times for 176 yards with one touchdown, caught 19 passes for 236 yards and six touchdowns, completed three-of-five passes for 55 yards and added two special teams tackles.

In his NFL career, Hill has averaged 5.5 yards per carry. That's better than Kamara's 4.9 yards per carry and better than Murray's 4.3 yards per carry since joining the Saints in 2019. So on an elementary, per-play basis, running Hill a few times a game seems to be a good call.

It didn't take long after Drew’s injury this season for Saints fans to start speculating who might be "the next Drew." The excitement was so rushed, no one even stopped to try and figure out whether Hill himself is worth it.

There's plenty of discussion to be had as to whether Hill's $16 million cap hit in 2021 will be profitable to anyone other than Sean Payton, but this isn't about whether the New Orleans Saints handed their third-string quarterback too much money. Instead, what's most worth determining is if each time Hill takes the field is enough of a positive for the Saints to keep on using his multifaceted skill set.

Hill went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, but signed with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent on May 5. He appeared in three preseason games with them, completing 14 of 20 passes, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another, before being waived on September 2, 2017.

As we enter week 16, the Saints face a team that has put the voodoo on them a number of times. The Minnesota Vikings. Drew is back, and after his performance against KC, I see many posts and comments that “Drew is all done”. I could not disagree more. Yes, Drew is 42, but with age comes experience. Something Hill does not have in his 4 years. Not having Michael Thomas, and losing Peat and Cam Jordan didn’t help matters. Hopefully MT is back in time for the playoffs. 

I would love to go into the Winston discussion, but that is a whole other article.

Hill is on his 4th season in the NFL. He is 30 years old. He has helped the Saints stay in the playoff race this season. After 2 seasons in a row of Drew getting injured and having back-ups bail him out, we have to ask ourselves, are we “Over the Hill” being the next QB in New Orleans or does the future hold a 2021 drafted QB?

In my opinion, the Saints should keep Hill doing what he does best, keeping defenses on their toes as a “Multi-Tool”. Handing a 30 year old the reigns is not in the best interest of the team. Draft a good QB and let Brees work with him for 1 or 2 years. If Drew decides to hang it up after 2020, the Saints will be in a difficult situation.  Only time will tell what Sean decides to do. Does he climb the Hill with Taysom, or look for a better “Hill” to climb.

Mike Pompa  



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