What Jameis Winston saw last year, as a backup quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, is what attracted the unrestricted free agent to re-sign this year, with a chance to become the starter for the Saints, who had Drew Brees as their full-time starter the last 15 seasons.
"I think that's the biggest thing, is the competitiveness that this organization possesses," Winston said Tuesday morning, during a lengthy interview with local media. "Everyone throughout the whole building is competing, is giving it their best and I was challenged by that, and I admire that and that's what I sunk into. That's what I'm about, competing. And this organization displays that day in and day out.
"I think an important thing is continuity, and what I saw last year is the relationship between an excellent head coach (Sean Payton) and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time display that day in and day out. I bought into that, and that's why I enjoyed New Orleans and I wanted to come back and compete for that – for that continuity with that coach, with these coordinators, with this team. I think that's what drew me back to New Orleans."
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, played sparingly last season after New Orleans did not have a traditional offseason – OTAs, minicamps, etc. – due to Covid-19 restrictions. He took snaps in three regular-season games, including playing the second half of a 27-13 victory over San Francisco, when Brees' rib and lung injuries forced him out of the game, and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass in the Saints' playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
But Payton has asserted there will be a quarterback competition between Winston and Taysom Hill, who was 3-1 as the starter last season in Brees' absence.
"I embrace every competition and I know Taysom is a competitive guy as well," Winston said. "I'm excited to be getting back with this team and being around him, being in that (quarterbacks) room with him again, competing and challenging each other and leading a team to where we want to be. Because I know that's what we both want.
"We both want the Lombardi Trophy. We both want that. I think that's something that I experienced last year that will impact me forever, is being able to play in those meaningful games, being in the playoffs, competing with your teammates to a deeper level. And that's what I'm about, competing and winning games. And that's what we're gonna do."
Winston also reflected on his deep admiration and appreciation of Brees and Tuesday, at one point late during his availability, Winston turned emotional and battled tears as he spoke about Brees and what the future Hall of Famer meant to Winston.
In 2020, when Winston signed with the Saints, he said he was looking forward to learning under Brees.
"If I took a journal and jotted down everything that (Brees) did day by day, I probably would win a New York Times bestselling book," he said. "I got a chance to witness one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time 'do him.' And I think that's what I learned. I got to experience what it looked like.
"I've been chasing the same dream he's chased that he's grasped, the Lombardi Trophy. And when you love this game like I do and when you're ready to work and willing to give it all you've got like I do, and you see that in real life from Drew Brees, that's the easiest way to grasp something.
"You learn from his methods and you be the best version of yourself. That's what Drew Brees would tell me: 'You be Jameis Winston. You don't have to be Drew Brees.' That's what it is. I feel that it's a tremendous amount of responsibility following a guy like Drew Brees, but I embrace that. I know that that is a challenging responsibility but I really embrace that.
"I would love to carry that torch from him, I would love to be able to provide the excitement and joy and resilience that he provided for this city."
Winston said Brees' decision-making is a trait that also shone through.
"One of the greatest things I learned from Drew is, 'Jameis, we are making decisions based on it being the right decision.' We're not concerned about the result, because over time the right decision is going to get us where we want to be," he said. "And I bought into that.
"We saw it over and over and over again, from Drew, from Taysom. When that's my perspective, I'm like, 'OK, I want to do this over and over and over again. I don't want to be over here, I want to be over there with those guys, getting an opportunity to compete."
If Winston is able to claim the starting job, he will do so knowing that New Orleans will implement his strengths as a quarterback.
"One thing I know about Coach Payton is, he enjoys challenges and he enjoys new beginnings," he said. "And I think he's looking at this opportunity kind of like how I view it, is how he got a young quarterback from San Diego, when he got Drew from the Chargers and they exploded together.
"I know that (Payton's) arsenal is filled with a lot of things. When you see what he was able to do with Taysom last year, how he completely kind of changed our offense and we had great success. It was incredible just watching a guy work like that.
"And that's why I say, it was that room. It was that entire room creating something to come out as a masterpiece, and that's what I really loved about Sean and (offensive coordinator) Pete (Carmichael) and Taysom and all the guys that were in that room."
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