It’s not often a NFL team like the New Orleans Saints find themselves in a situation like the one they currently are in, which is having not just one but actually THREE players, all of who are capable of playing the #1 QB position; but are stuck waiting to see if the best (but the oldest) one will decide to either permanently retire or return for a 20th season at age 41 — while essentially being forced to choose which of the other two, to keep for the team’s future.
But as the franchise patiently waits for the decision of current starter and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, the bigger topic of discussion among NFL observers and analysts (and especially Saints fans in particular) is which of the two players behind Brees should lead the franchise after he’s gone.
However, figuring out just which one of those other two QB’s they should keep has suddenly become a source of great controversy; and the main question in recent days is whether or not the organization will actually choose the one QB who by all accounts is the most qualified both on the field and off of it: Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater. who will be playing in his 7th NFL season later on this year, was in his 2nd season with New Orleans last season and became the team’s temporary starting #1 QB for 5 regular season games; after Brees tore a ligament in the thumb of his right throwing hand in a Week #2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Subsequently, the Black and Gold ended up winning every single contest during that stretch, and any questions that some of Bridgewater’s biggest critics might have had regarding his ability to lead the Saints (or any other NFL team for that matter) to success on a week-to-week basis, were quickly laid to rest.
But it was this past Tuesday that the team and its fans came to the realization that not only is the 27-year old Bridgewater a good quarterback on the football field. but an even GREATER young man off of it.
Bridgewater published an inspirational message on Social Media via his personal Instagram and Twitter accounts, which he directed toward young kids and teenagers that are either struggling or having emotional difficulties at home or at school. His words tugged at the heartstrings of many of Saints fans and supporters, and since that time it has gained a large amount of praise and notoriety throughout the entire world of amateur and professional sports.
“I was once in your shoes. I believe in you.”
— ESPN (@espn) February 11, 2020
The main point and emphasis of Bridgewater’s thoughts, to the millions of American children who find themselves in an undesirable situation that was very similar to the one he experienced himself back during his days as a youth growing up in South Florida; were simple but yet deeply thoughtful ones and ended with this final phrase of encouragement:
“I was once in your shoes. I believe in you.”
The bigger “takeaway” from Bridgewater’s message illustrates further just not only how good of a football player that he actually is, but an even greater and better individual as both a man and a human being in general.
This is the very same person who recently at the end of last year back in December, addressed the student body of Kenner Discovery Health Science Academy out in nearby Jefferson Parish; and provided the older children and teenagers who were there in attendance with a similar message of hope and inspiration.
“I get more excited hearing the cheers from the children,” Bridgewater told NOLA.com / New Orleans Advocate beat writer Rod Walker in a one-on-one interview. “They are full of potential and full of energy, and their energy does something to my spirit.”
“I was once a child and I was once in their shoes,” Bridgewater said to Walker after the event was over. “As children we have so much energy and so much potential. Sometimes we just need the right individuals to bring it out of us. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”
“It was just great to be able to share my story and hopefully be able to motivate different children to understand that to make your dream come true, there are going to be some things you have to take care of.”
“Just understanding that you can’t be selfish with your gift,” Bridgewater added. “I have a gift of being able to play football, but I also feel like I have a gift of motivating. My story can sometimes motivate people and I realized that I can’t be selfish with that.”
That sentiment was evident once again in his Instagram post on Tuesday, and it further speaks to the reason why the Saints as an entire organization; needs to give VERY strong consideration to finding a way somehow to keep the Miami, Florida native with the team for the forseeable future and perhaps well beyond.
Unfortunately at this current point in time, it seems less and less likely to happen with each passing day.
As most NFL and Saints fans are well aware: the team has a huge decision looming in the upcoming weeks ahead, as to which of the two back-up QB’s they should keep to become the next starting #1 QB after Brees retires for good. However, the team (and specifically head coach Sean Payton) within the past week have been said to be considering making 3rd string QB Taysom Hill the team’s next starting “franchise QB” once Brees is gone.
As a direct consequence, there is now a split or divide currently among the super-passionate “Who Dat Nation” / Saints fan-base, between those who believe Teddy should be the next starting QB and those who prefer Taysom.
A strong argument can be made that Bridgewater is clearly the more accomplished player at the QB position; especially since the former University of Louisville star — who at age 27 is now in just entering into his “prime” — proved his worth as a legitimate starting NFL QB after Brees was hurt.
Bridgewater stepped up “big time” to lead the franchise to impressive wins during the early to middle part of the 2019 Season last year over fellow NFC Playoff contenders Seattle, Dallas, and Chicago. As a result, Bridgewater (who also led the Minnesota Vikings to a NFL Playoff spot back in 2014 as a rookie) posted an undefeated win-loss record (5-0) and further proved his overall value as a legitimate starting-caliber or “franchise” quarterback.
That accomplishment has led to his current status as one of the top players who will be available once the beginning of the 2020 NFL Free Agency signing period officially gets underway next month (March 18th), since he is widely considered the #1 player at the quarterback position.
Nevertheless, several prominent NFL insiders and analysts in recent weeks including NBC Sports / Pro Football Talk writer Mike Florio have reported that the Saints organization and Payton are considering making Taysom Hill the team’s next starting QB instead of Bridgewater.
The soon-to-be 30-year old Hill, the Black and Gold’s versatile and dynamic offensive star who has made a huge impact as both a runner and receiver (or a “gadget player” as some refer to it), has gone on record saying that he views himself fully capable of becoming a “franchise” or a proven starting #1 quarterback in the NFL; and now says that he’s even willing to leave New Orleans to go play for another team to prove it.
Hill currently now is considered a restricted free agent, but is expected to return to the Saints organization for at least one more season; both in his current role and also as a back-up #2 QB, assuming of course that the team tenders him a qualifying 1-year offer to keep him on the team particularly if Brees returns for another season.
The problem with Taysom eventually succeeding Brees over Bridgewater however, is the fact that there remains a plethora of lingering doubts among many well-known observers and analysts; about Taysom’s capability to effectively guide the offense purely as a pocket- passer and starting NFL quarterback.
But the counter-argument in Hill’s favor is that Payton and the Saints can tailor their offensive scheme to better suit Taysom’s capabilities as a runner and play-maker; while still keeping him under center to lead the passing attack as well (much like last year’s NFL 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson did with the Baltimore Ravens).
However, it’s very likely that any decision the Saints organization will make to name Taysom Hill the next starting #1 QB after Brees leaves; seems to be motivated by the fact that it would presumably cost them a much larger amount of money to invest in and retain Bridgewater.
New Orleans does have the option to offer Bridgewater enough money to convince him to remain with the Black and Gold either by signing him to a short-term, 1-year contract to remain as Brees’ back-up for at least next season. Last season, the team convinced Bridgewater to stay in NOLA as an unrestricted free agent as well, but that contract was only on a 1-year deal at $7.25 million with incentives.
And even though it would be expensive given their current salary cap status that would require them to find the money to do so (but have managed to in previous years with other players), New Orleans could even decide to sign the 27-year old Bridgewater to a long-term deal that would obviously be a commitment to make him the new starting QB after Brees is gone.
Another option but the one that’s the least likely because of their current money situation, is that New Orleans could even choose to put the “franchise tag” on Bridgewater, which essentially would force Teddy to remain for at least another year in NOLA.
But it would also essentially guarantee Bridgewater would get nearly $25 million next season — which would be as much (if not more) money than they plan to pay Brees — if he decides to return next season for what would be his 20th year in the NFL (and perhaps his final one, unless he decides to play even longer) .
Whether or not the Saints front office would actually change their minds from their reported preference of opting to go with Taysom and then suddenly decide to choose Bridgewater instead, will only happen if they truly believe they can remain successful and win games with Bridgewater as the eventual successor to Brees after he retires.
That of course, is where the so-called controversy comes in.
As it’s been well-documented recently by many observers that cover the NFL as well as a sizable portion of Saints fans themselves:
IF the Saints and Payton REALLY BELIEVE that Taysom is a “franchise-caliber QB”, then why didn’t they choose to start Hill instead for those 5 games that Brees missed, over Bridgewater?
The answer to that question is that their alleged decision likely was based on the fact that they already knew Bridgewater was the more capable QB, but now their situation at the position is being heavily influenced by their current salary cap and overall financial status.
As a result, they’re now either opting to go with Hill instead because they believe they can still win games with Taysom as the starter for a much cheaper price; or otherwise they simply believe that they’d be much rather better off than taking a chance on drafting a brand-new rookie at the QB position, out of college.
— 247Sports (@247Sports) February 9, 2020
In any case, the Saints always have known that Brees would eventually be retiring from the sport around this time, and they seemingly (and unthinkably) have put themselves in a bind now by appearing to be totally unprepared and embarrassingly caught with their proverbial pants down; with regard to having another QB on the roster that they truly and honestly feel can lead them into the future.
Clearly that wasn’t the Saints’ intentions originally, but now they will be forced to improvise “on the fly” and make a determination on just who that player should be.
If they believe that Taysom Hill is indeed that player, then Saints fans will have to say their prayers and hope for the best possible outcome. But one can’t help but carefully weigh all of the present facts, without coming away with the notion that it’s Teddy Bridgewater — and not Taysom Hill — who is the player that’s better suited for that task.
And it’s for that specific reason, why the Saints need to think about keeping Bridgewater.
If they do, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at all to anyone; especially for those who realize and understand that Teddy is not only a good NFL starting #1 “franchise QB”, but an even greater young man….
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius