Taysom Hill: Football's Swiss Army Knife
Picture this: you're an NFL coach. Your team is starting to win again after going 7-9 in four out of the last five seasons. Your starting QB isn't putting up record breaking stats like he was a few years prior. Opposing teams are starting to figure out your offense. How do you get back to your Super Bowl winning, dominant play style, while still using your Hall of Fame quarterback? The answer, use gadget players. More specifically, find someone on your team who can "do it all". Find a player who will do anything to help your team win. That's what Sean Payton did when he realized he had an athletic freak in 3rd string QB Taysom Hill.
Photo: Associated Press
How did Taysom Hill come into the fold? Taysom played QB at BYU. During his junior year, he was on the Heisman watchlist, with the likes of Jamies Winston and Marcus Mariota. This journey, however, would be cut short due to a season ending injury. This wasn't something new for Taysom; while at BYU, Taysom suffered season ending injuries in four of his five seasons - a knee injury, a broken fibula, a foot fracture and an elbow strain - per Hannah Martin. Most players would not be able to fight back from four season ending injuries, let alone one. The mental and physical toll it takes on a player is something very few can overcome. Hill happens to be one of the few.
In 2017, Hill found himself on the Packers for the preseason, with plans to be released and brought back to the practice squad - if he cleared through waivers. Sean Payton was watching film on Max McCaffery, a blossoming wide receiver in Green Bay, when he noticed the QB throwing his way. Sean Payton began to do more research and film study on the QB, and picked him up on waivers almost instantly. That day, Taysom Hill found himself on a plane to New Orleans, ready for his life and career to change for the better.
Backup QBs in New Orleans saw minimal playing time since Drew Brees's arrival, but Hill saw it as an opportunity to learn from one of the GOATs and prepare himself for any chance to earn a starting spot. Towards the end of the 2017 season, the Saints needed a man for their kickoff unit. Taysom's name was first on the list due to his athletic ability. In the final five games of the year, Taysom recorded 4 tackles on special teams and showed his versatility. The following season, he would be placed on nearly every special teams unit. On kick return, he played multiple positions, but played exceptionally well returning the ball. On 14 kick returns, he gained 348 yards with a long of 47 yards. He would also rack up 6 tackles between kickoff and punt units, while getting a first down on a fake punt in a playoff game against the Eagles. In a divisional matchup against the Bucs in Week 14, Taysom blocked a punt and gave the offense great field position. As a result, his big plays on special teams resulted in him getting more time on the offense.
Photo: The Spun
During his first season on offense, he didn't look too sharp throwing the ball. On 7 attempts, Taysom hit only 3 passes for 64 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT. He was able to show his playmaking ability in other ways, as he ran the ball 37 times for 196 yards and 2 TDs. He also caught 3 passes for 4 yards and 0 TDs. Taysom showed glimpses of being a real threat in 2018 and put it on display in 2019. He didn't get a lot of opportunities to throw the ball again, as he went 3/6 for 55 yards and 0 TDs or INTs. He had similar rushing numbers with 27 carries for 156 yards and 1 TD. His receiving game, however, is where he reached the next level. Taysom had 19 catches, 14 of which were first downs, for 234 yards and 6 TDs. He played all over the offense, getting snaps at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, slot receiver, tight end, and wing (off the ball tight end). Come the 2020 season, Taysom had been putting up some solid numbers. Throughout the first nine games, he was 4 for 5 on passes for 80 yards, with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. In the run game, he carried the ball 34 times for 186 yards and 1 TD. In the pass game, he brought in 6 catches for 74 yards and 1 TD. His season, however, would change after Drew Brees suffered 11 fractured ribs and a punctured lung over two games in Week 9 and 10. Once again, the offense turned to Taysom Hill to do more, this time, as the starting QB.
The decision to make Taysom the starter was a puzzling one to some, as the Saints had signed the former number one overall pick from 2015, Jamies Winston, that same offseason. Jamies proved he could produce points for his team, but needed to cut down his turnover numbers in order to become a starter again. After going over practice film and consulting with other coaches, Sean Payton decided to rock with Taysom until Brees returned from his injury. Over the past four games, the Saints are 3-1, with Taysom playing extremely well. In that span, Taysom has hit nearly 72% of his passes for 834 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs. He has also run the ball 39 times for 209 yards and 4 TDs, totaling 8 TDs over a four game span for the versatile QB. He has fumbled the ball 6 times and lost 2 of them during this stretch, so he will need to be more careful with the ball next time he has a shot. No decision has been made on Brees as to whether or not he will start against the 12-1 Kansas City Chiefs.
Photo: New Orleans Saints
Stat Source: Pro Football Reference
Taysom Hill could very well be the future QB for the Saints franchise. He has played above expectations and continues to dominate with his arm and his legs. Not only is he a great offensive producer, but he isn't afraid to block defenders almost twice his size. He is a better run blocker than a good amount of tight ends in the league, but can also burn DBs when needed to. He is the perfect offensive weapon and other teams have tried to do this with their backups as well.
During this season, the Eagles used Jalen Hurts in different packages before he took the starting job from Carson Wentz. In 2019, the Ravens used RGIII and Lamar Jackson in the same backfield a couple of times as well. Colleges have used players in similar scenarios, for example, Lynn Bowden from Kentucky, who played quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in college. He now plays for the Dolphins as a running back and wide receiver. It is clear to see that Taysom Hill is slowly reshaping how teams run their offenses. He has made a significant impact on the New Orleans Saints organization; and every other team, especially the Packers, are wondering how they let a gem like Taysom slip out of their hands.