Sean Payton made the decision to start Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston, a move that has raised eyebrows throughout the New Orleans Saints organization. The Saints have guaranteed Hill $17.439 million over the next two years, but that isn't the reason why Payton ultimately decided to start Hill over a former No. 1 overall pick.
Instead, the decision was as basic as 2+2. Payton "just wants to know" what he has in Hill, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The Saints really don't know what they have in Hill, who they signed to a two-year, $21 million contract this offseason. New Orleans (7-2) has a tremendous opportunity for the No. 1 seed in the NFC -- which guarantees a first-round bye as this season will be the first year only one team gets a bye in each conference (seven teams in each conference make the playoffs). The Saints have the same record as the Green Bay Packers for the top seed in the conference, but Green Bay has the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a Week 3 victory over New Orleans.
Which is why starting Hill is a huge gamble for the Saints, who have the most wins in the NFL since the start of the 2017 season. Hill has attempted just 18 passes in his four NFL seasons, completing 10 of them (55.6%) for 205 yards and an interception. This year has been Hill's best as a passer, completing 4 of 5 passes for 86 yards while averaging 17.2 yards per attempt. Hill has been utilized more as a runner over the past few games, notching a career-high in carries over the past two weeks (seven in Week 9 and eight in Week 10), rushing for 99 yards and averaging 6.6 yards per carry. The Saints can utilize Hill in a variety of ways, dramatically altering their offense as a result.
How long of a leash Payton has on Hill is the biggest mystery here. The Saints head coach has a security blanket in Winston, for what its worth.