The term "groupthink" came about in the early 1950s shortly after the publication of George Orwell's 1984. Orwell's opus had coined the term "doublethink," and the thinker William H. Whyte Jr. built on that idea with groupthink a few years later.
"Groupthink" would be refined over the years, but the heart of it is when well-meaning and otherwise smart people collaborate to urge conformity when basic facts would point to a different result.
Case in point: New Orleans quarterback Taysom Hill. Drew Brees, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is out for at least three weeks due to a bevy of cracked ribs. Sean Payton, one of the best offensive minds of his generation, decided that Hill would get the start Sunday against the Falcons ahead of Jameis Winston, he of 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions in nine career games against Atlanta.
Hill is the great unknown: a muscle-bound 6-foot-2 quarterback who has mostly been used as a gadget player for New Orleans. Winston, despite his penchant for giving the ball away, is one of eight people to ever walk this earth with a 5,000-yard passing season on his resume. When Brees couldn't continue playing out of halftime last week, Payton turned to Winston. And conventional wisdom indicated he'd go back to Winston against the Falcons.
But what I -- and we -- fell prey to is groupthink in its most classic form. Sure, not every person thought Payton was making a mistake. But I feel comfortable in saying most people with a rooting interest either disagreed or were hoping to be proven wrong.
Then Hill went 18 for 23 for 233 yards with a passer rating of 108.9 in his first-ever start. He also rushed for a team-high 51 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 24-9 win against Atlanta. And somewhere on the list of accolades he earned a mea culpa from this reporter.
You see, Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis signed Hill back in 2017 when he was a 27-year-old rookie out of BYU. Payton taught him the system for more than three years up to this point. He kept inserting Hill into the backfield for direct snaps in maddening ways. We -- and I mean me, plus a majority of those reading this now --hated it, but there was a method to the perceived madness.
Hill spent most of the first half spending too much time proving he was a True Quarterback, attempting 13 passes and rushing just twice. He fumbled midway through the fourth quarter while up two scores in what could have been a turning point for a team led by a former NFL MVP. But ... nothing happened. He didn't throw the game away. He wasn't incompetent as the every-down quarterback.
We should be far from crowning Hill. This great experiment may have worked once, but that doesn't make it a law. Still, Payton and Hill deserve credit.
Twitter, a place where memes are shared, loudly proclaimed starting Hill would be a mistake. Talk radio joined forces with the social media app. We all got in our laughs. If you're on Twitter long enough, you disillusion yourself to believe it's true.
But the coach who knows offense better than us all got the last laugh Sunday. Hill proved a worthy backup and capable NFL starter against the Falcons, and he gets the lowly Broncos next week before a Falcons rematch in Week 13.
Tonight, the Saints can revel in moving to 8-2 on the season. And Sean Payton can kick his feet up enjoying the biggest told-you-so moment of the 2020 NFL season.