- New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has suffered what head coach Sean Payton characterized as a ‘significant’ knee injury.
- Winston was carted off the field in the second quarter of Sunday’s 36-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- Saints head coach Sean Payton has not given much clarity as to which quarterback will start the team’s Week 9 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
The New Orleans Saints feared the worst after starting quarterback Jameis Winston left Sunday’s victory over Tampa Bat after suffering what Saints’ head coach Sean Payton characterized as a ‘significant’ knee injury. Yesterday afternoon the ‘worst case scenario was confirmed’–Winston will miss the rest of the 2021 NFL season due to a torn ACL and damaged MCL in his left knee. As of now, Winston’s treatment plan is still being formulated but the hope is that he’ll be able to return in time for next season’s training camp.
Winston suffered the season ending injury in the second quarter of New Orleans’ 36-27 win over his former team–and defending Super Bowl champions–the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston was brought down with a horse collar tackle by Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White–who was assessed with a 15 yard penalty for the infraction. Winston landed awkwardly with his left leg behind him as he hit the turf. He was examined by trainers and medical staff before being helped off the field where he was carted to the locker room.
In his comments to the media, New Orleans head coach Payton suggested that the severity of Winston’s injury was due in large part to it happening on a turf field rather than a natural grass surface:
“I don’t think that happens on grass. I know right now the data says a player is 28% more likely to have a player injured when we play on artificial surfaces, and I think this was one of those cases.”
The question now turns to the immediate options at quarterback for the Saints with Winston sidelined. Payton legitimately sounded as if he was still trying to figure this out himself in his comments to the media but he did emphasize that the team is unlikely to bring in another quarterback:
“We’re satisfied with the quarterback room.”
Tayson Hill is the second quarterback on the depth chart but he has been out with a concussion since Week 5. The word is that he’s showing improvement but there’s no way that the Saints can rush him out of ‘concussion protocol’. Asked if Hill would be ready to play on Sunday, Peyton gave little in the way of specifics:
“He’s doing well. He’s progressing. He’s on schedule. And all that’s good. We’ll see.”
“We’re gonna look closely at what’s best for our team in this game. And as the week progresses, we’ll see how we want to play it out. And we’ll be ready to play Sunday. We’ll grind away at the plan, pay attention to the information we’re getting from the training room, all of that, and be ready to go.”
The previous two paragraphs were ‘coach speak’ for ‘I have no clue’:
A more viable option in the short term would be veteran Trevor Siemian. Siemian entered the game after Winston’s injury and put up solid numbers (16 of 29, 159 yards, 1 TD) to lead the Saints to victory. Siemian has a decent amount of previous NFL experience as a starter but his most compelling attribute could be that he’s healthy. On Monday, Payton gave Siemian props for playing well in a tough situation:
“Man, he did a good job. There were a number of plays where he’s got a free rusher and he gets the ball out on time. I thought he played with poise and made good decisions. It’s what you want someone to do that’s coming into the game really without a lot of work, and I thought he handled the situation well. The tape was good for him.”
The only other quarterback on the Saints’ roster is former Notre Dame standout Ian Book but a rookie that has yet to see any regular season NFL action wouldn’t be considered for anything other than emergency duty. New Orleans isn’t quite sure what to do with Book. He’s got plenty of ‘upside’–to the point that some Saints’ fans suggest that he could be a future franchise quarterback. That notwithstanding, reports suggest that he was quietly ‘shopped around’ prior to the start of the season. All reports suggest that Book impressed teammates and coaches alike during training camp with his work ethic and positive attitude. The ‘book on Book’ is equally solid–he might not have Winston’s rocket arm but he gets high marks for just about every other attribute ascribed to a NFL quarterback–leadership skills, attention to detail, ‘football smarts’ and toughness–not to mention the poise of being the starting quarterback at one of college football’s most revered programs. Chip Long was the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame during Book’s tenure:
“He’s a natural leader. There’s a lot of pressure in being the quarterback at Notre Dame, and they haven’t had anybody in 30 years be able to handle it the way he did. Just the amount of work he puts into it each and every day is going to give him a chance to be successful. He’s always had to prove everybody wrong. He’s done a pretty job of it.”
The most common praise given Book by coaches, analysts and other experts: he’s a ‘winner’. Being the winningest starting quarterback in Note Dame history is no joke. At this point, the prevailing wisdom on Book’s development as a pro quarterback is fairly typical–he’s still trying to put it all together and adapt to the speed of the NFL game along with the necessity of making decisions and getting rid of the ball that much faster. At one point, this was expected of every rookie quarterback but in an era when prodigies like Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson quickly acclimated to the NFL game it’s difficult not to consider ‘average’ something of a disappointment.
As for Winston’s future with the Saints, Payton made it crystal clear that if he’s healthy enough to return in time for training camp that he’ll likely go in as the top quarterback on the depth chart:
“We definitely were encouraged (by Winston’s performance this season). We felt like, man, we’ve seen the arm strength, the leadership, all those things. We talk about all the time, ‘They’re gonna evaluate you on your record.’ And, shoot, he was 4-2. It wasn’t always perfect, but absolutely (we were getting what we hoped). Someone that had become a vital part to what we were doing.”
The most impressive testimony to Winston’s career re-defining performance to date for the Saints might be the reaction of his teammates to his injury–his positive chemistry and the high regard in which his teammates hold him is amazing. Even *former* teammates still talk about what a great person Winston is and how much they enjoyed playing with him.