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Saints Jameis Winston
NFL

Should Saints Make A QB Change?

  • Jack McKessy
  • September 27, 2022
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Year two of the “Jameis Winston: QB1” experience in New Orleans is not off to a good start. After a 1-2 start to the 2022 season, New Orleans Saints first-year head coach Dennis Allen has already said he isn’t considering making a change at quarterback just yet. But should he be thinking about it?

It’s no secret that the biggest problem for the Saints right now is their offense and its inability to get going and stay going from week to week. In New Orleans’ only win so far this season, their Week 1 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, 17 of their 27 total points came in the fourth quarter. That trend continued over the next two weeks, with seven of their 10 points against the Buccaneers in Week 2 and all 14 points in Carolina this Sunday coming in the final frame. That means that through three weeks, 38 of the Saints’ 51 total points have come in the final 15 minutes.

As in most instances with a struggling offense, much of the blame falls on the quarterback. Winston, who was already the biggest wildcard for the Saints this season, has had more bad performances than good to start off his second season as the starter in the Big Easy. The former first overall pick has thrown five interceptions to just four touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, and three of those picks came on back-to-back-to-back drives against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

Winston’s decision-making and ability to protect the football have been abysmal so far just a year after it looked like the Saints had found a way to keep their veteran quarterback in check. That could be due, at least in part, to former New Orleans head coach and offensive play-caller Sean Payton’s decision to retire after last season. Payton kept things easy and conservative for the veteran quarterback in his seven starts before the injury last year, and the result was a much more risk- and turnover-averse version of Winston.

The statistics tell a similar story. Winston’s average depth of target under Payton in 2021 was 8.3 yards, the lowest in his career. So far this year, Winston is on pace to set a new career-high in average depth of target with 11.3 yards with longtime Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael taking over play-calling duties.

Worth noting as well is the injury Winston has been dealing with this season. The quarterback has started each of the last two games with four fractured vertebrae, according to Jay Glazer, on top of coming off of an ACL tear he suffered last year. While that could be a reason to give Winston a bit of a pass on his inaccuracy and underthrows in his poor performances, it should really be another reason to question why the Saints aren’t considering a quarterback change. Has backup quarterback Andy Dalton been so bad in practice that New Orleans’ coaching staff would rather roll with a probably 70% healthy Winston?

There have been other reasons for the Saints’ struggles through three weeks—missed tackles by the defense were a big issue in Week 3, for instance. But Winston is very clearly not at his best, at least right now. Whether that’s more because of his injury or the new coaching staff’s inability to keep him in check doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, there’s no good reason to keep rolling with him the way he’s played so far.

A better approach would be to allow Winston the time to fully heal—because when he’s healthy and at his best, he can make amazing things happen—and let Dalton take over. Why not see if he can’t do better than a very much injured Winston with the talented weapons the Saints would be putting around him? This is the benefit of signing an experienced veteran like Dalton to be the backup quarterback anyway—he could help pull the team up from a bad start to the season if early signs point south for the younger starter.

As things point south early for the Saints and Winston, New Orleans should seriously consider trying out Dalton, at the very least to give Winston time off to heal. If Dalton performs well, he could get the Saints back on track for a playoff berth.

Written By

Jack McKessy