AROUND THE SHIELD — By any and all accounts, Taysom Hill had a remarkable season in his third year with the New Orleans Saints.
But does that remarkable season — one in which the former BYU quarterback lined up in the backfield, as well as suiting up as running back, tight end, wide receiver, and on special teams — provide enough of a sample for an NFL team to invest in him as a quarterback of the future?
One thing is certain: Hill thinks so.
"I definitely view myself as a franchise quarterback," Hill told Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press in a podcast interview that has made the rounds this week. "Is it New Orleans? Is it somewhere else?"
Hill will be a restricted free agent in March, when the two other quarterbacks on the Saints’ roster — veteran starter and record-setting NFL quarterback Drew Brees, and high-profile backup Teddy Bridgewater — will also see their contracts expire in New Orleans.
Hill became a jack-of-all-trades with the Saints in 2019, reaching “legend” status for his versatility amongst diehard New Orleans fans. In the Saints’ NFC Wild Card loss to Minnesota, he carried the ball four times for 50 yards, completed a 50-yard pass to set himself up as a lead blocker on a short touchdown run, and caught a touchdown pass to spark a late rally.
He doesn’t necessarily want to leave New Orleans. But he isn’t afraid to broach the subject, either.
"As you get to free agency, there’s no denying that I loved my time in New Orleans," Hill said. "Do I want to leave? The fact of the matter is, no. But as you look at free agency, you have to find the right opportunities for you. I want to play quarterback in this league, and if New Orleans doesn’t view me that way, then I have to leave."
In other words, he’s prepared to do what’s best for him, his family and his career, as the old cliche goes.
But at least one person outside the Hill family thinks the former BYU star responsible for "Taysom Mania" during parts of his career in Provo thinks he has what it takes to be a lead signal-caller: his former special teams coach in 2017-18.
Former Saints special teams coordinator Mike Westoff even made a startling comparison for Hill: Ravens star and NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.
"Take a look at Baltimore," Westoff told CBS Radio in January. "It’s the same kind of guy. Taysom Hill does those same things. I think he throws better. That’s the kind of football player he is."
Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound Louisville product, threw for 3,127 yards, 36 touchdowns and three interceptions while running for 1,206 yards and seven scores in his second season in the league.
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound Hill is ... well, just a few yards and touchdowns behind him.
But Hill isn’t necessarily trying to make the Saints move on from its franchise quarterback. He also told the Associated Press that he hopes Brees comes back to New Orleans for at least one more year.
"As one of Drew’s biggest fans, I hope he comes back," Hill said. "I would love to play with him again, and he’s become one of my best friends — like a brother to me."
That’ll leave Hill with a significant life decision to make over the next month.