SEATTLE — Sean Payton declined to name a starter for the New Orleans Saints‘ first game without Drew Brees on Sunday at Seattle, saying, “We’ll approach this game with two quarterbacks” in veteran Teddy Bridgewater and dual-threat athlete Taysom Hill.
Brees underwent surgery on his right (throwing) thumb on Wednesday. And though Payton refused to speculate on a timetable for Brees’ recovery, the coach did say the Saints are not planning to place Brees on injured reserve — which would require him to miss eight weeks.
In the meantime, Payton believes the Saints could gain a tactical advantage by forcing the Seahawks to prepare for two quarterbacks with different styles.
Payton continued to staunchly defend Bridgewater on Wednesday, pointing out that the play of the offensive line and penalties were the biggest culprits for New Orleans’ lack of success this past Sunday in a 27-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after Brees left in the first quarter.
But he also indicated that Hill will be part of the game plan after he was used often in read-option packages last season.
“We’ll have the right plan relative to what those guys are doing,” said Payton, who acknowledged that the Saints will have to monitor how much they are doing with Hill — who has also been a core special-teams player over the past two years.
“Look, these guys have been here now two seasons,” Payton said of Bridgewater and Hill. “It’s just kind of taking a step back and looking at the things we want to do with those guys in the game and putting that plan in place this week in practice.”
Bridgewater told reporters after practice Wednesday that he invites the idea of sharing snaps with Hill.
“It’s all about doing whatever we can to help this team win, whether it’s me out there making plays or Taysom out there making plays,” said Bridgewater, who said he is also excited to make what he called his first “meaningful” start since 2015. “It just shows me how faithful God is. And all the times that I may have questioned him and doubted, ‘Will I ever get another opportunity?’ he showed me how faithful he is to me.
“For me, it’s just all about being myself. And that’s been my message to the guys when we’re out there on the field: ‘Just be you. You don’t have to be anyone spectacular. You don’t have to go out of your way.’ If everyone can just be the best version of themselves, they’ll help this team win football games.”
Bridgewater, a 2014 first-round draft pick who led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs in 2015 before a devastating knee injury in the summer of 2016, is the highest-paid backup QB in the NFL. The Saints traded a third-round draft pick to acquire him from the New York Jets in August 2018. Then they re-signed him to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million plus incentives in free agency.
Bridgewater was also ineffective in Week 17 last season when the Saints rested several starters — but Payton said that wasn’t a fair evaluation for him playing behind a patchwork offensive line.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what he does well,” Payton said. “All the snaps in practice, all the things that we’ve done. If you watch the tape closely from last week, you see there’s some tough situations that I think would have been difficult for any one of our guys playing. So he’ll be ready to go. He’s a guy that’s won before. And the most important thing is all the other pieces around him.
“We’re looking at a player that we valued coming out. We’re looking at a player that played well in Minnesota. A guy that players respect. A guy that’s got good arm strength to get the ball downfield and has got the traits you’re looking for at that position.”
Bridgewater said that Brees’ absence “doesn’t mean the show must slow down.” The overall mood of the Saints’ locker room Wednesday seemed energized and confident as well, indicating his teammates feel the same way.
When running back Alvin Kamara was asked if he still has Super Bowl expectations, he replied, “Do I still have a fleur-de-lis on my helmet?”