Even with added pressure, Taysom Hill delivered
A week ago, common sense and the depth chart pointed to Taysom Hill starting on Sunday for the Falcons. Even so, many insisted it would be Jameis Winston.
It wasn’t. It was Taysom all along; Hill told PFT after Sunday’s win that he first got a pretty good idea that he’d be starting last Monday night.
Was Hill surprised that coach Sean Payton kept it all under wraps for so long?
“We know Coach,” Hill said. “So knowing Coach Payton I wasn’t too surprised.”
Whether Payton intended it or not (and Payton probably intended it), the way things happened added pressure to the situation. What would have been a garden-variety mid-November NFC South contest developed a postseason feel. After five days of silence followed by two days with the cat out of the bag — even as Payton kept quiet to the point that some believed he’d use both Hill and Winston — the anticipation grew and grew, increasing the level of scrutiny and attention and, if Hill had fallen from the tightrope, shrinking the size of the net.
The fact that Hill passed a test with artificially raised stakes makes the outcome even better for the Saints and for Hill. If/when he has to start a playoff game (whether next year or this year), Hill won’t be freaked out. At a minimum, he’ll be far less likely to be freaked out, given that he had a successful showing in a game that, based on the way the identity of the starter was handled, ended up being much bigger than it otherwise would have been.
Hill emerged from his first start feeling appreciative and emotional. He was asked to identify the one thing he’ll remember about the experience, 50 years from now.
“I would say just the love that I felt from those closest to me,” Hill told PFT. “It’s been overwhelming in a very positive way, the number of texts, the number of people that reached out to me saying prayers for me and my family. It’s been a very humbling week in that regard. I’ll remember all that, remember all of the conversations that I had with my teammates in the locker room after.”
And he’s just getting started. Hill will play at least two more games, probably at least three more, as Drew Brees recovers from a hit that left him with nearly as many broken ribs as unbroken ribs. The experience will make Hill even better prepared to take over in 2021, if Brees retires after the 2020 season.