The New Orleans Saints' season has gone from Ida to Ian and several uncomfortable stops in between, but the whole of it has led to a rookie quarterback likely making his NFL regular-season debut in a nationally televised game, when Ian Book steps into the huddle for the Saints on Monday night against Miami in the Caesars Superdome.
Book will start for the Saints (7-7) and attempt to help the team extend its two-game winning streak because on Thursday, starter Taysom Hill and backup Trevor Siemian both joined the Reserve/Covid-19 list, along with seven other Saints. It's the latest tumult endured by the franchise, which began the regular season in Dallas, having evacuated New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Ida.
Book, the Saints' fourth-round pick (No. 133 overall) this year, hasn't taken a snap in a game since the preseason. But Tommy Rees, who was Book's quarterbacks coach (2017-19) and offensive coordinator (2020) at Notre Dame, said Book will be ready for the challenge. Rees spoke to Book on Thursday, after Book got the news that he would start.
"He's obviously extremely excited," Rees said. "I think he's a kid that, he's going to do everything from now until kickoff to make sure that he's ready to play. I know they're not in a normal week in terms of practice and stuff, but however he can prepare to give himself the best opportunity to go out there and play well, he's going to do that.
"He got opportunities like this early in his career at Notre Dame, and I was always extremely excited for him because you saw his ability in practice and you saw the way – like, he's dang accurate and he makes the right decision repeatedly. You always wanted to see, if this is how he practices is that going to translate to a game, and it always did. I think that's going to hold true."
At Notre Dame, Book completed 64 percent of his passes for 8,948 yards and 72 touchdowns, with 20 interceptions. He also ran for 17 touchdowns and 1,517 yards on 361 carries.
"If a guy's open, the ball is going to be on target, I know that," Rees said. "He's a very accurate kid. He's a really good athlete, he'll be able to run around, probably make some plays. There might be some opportunities for him in the run game a little bit. You're going to see a guy that goes out there and the moment's not going to seem too big for him at all. I expect him to go out and execute pretty well."
Book will be the fourth quarterback to start for the Saints this season, after Jameis Winston, Siemian and Hill. It will be the first time that ever has happened under Coach Sean Payton.
Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said New Orleans liked what it saw on film from Book at Notre Dame, where he set the school record with 30 quarterback wins.
"He's smart, he had a very productive college career, he's accurate, he's mobile, he's able to process information in meetings," Carmichael said. "So, he's been really sharp in meetings, and we've been impressed with what he's done on the field with the practice squad. We feel really confident in him as a player. We still have time before the game gets here (on Monday night), but we know this, if that's the case, he'll (Book) be prepared."
Carmichael said that Book's confidence is a trait that stands out.
"One thing I know about him is that he has a strong passion for this and loves to play," Carmichael said. "He wants to be out there, so I think those things will suit him well."
Rees echoed those sentiments, and said the fact that Book set a school record for victories was significant.
"The kid's a stud," Rees said. "He's everything you want from an intangible standpoint in your quarterback, from his work ethic, to the way the guys respond to him, to his ability to be one of the guys, to really reach anyone in that locker room. Everything you want in your quarterback is what Ian has."
He'll have to be a quick study; Rees said Book hasn't had reps with the Saints' starters, and Thursday's practice was nixed due to the Covid outbreak.
"He'll get it," Rees said. "He'll get it down. One thing he knows how to do is work, and he's going to work his ass off, I'm sure, to get ready for Monday night."
He won't be the only one. Between injuries and the Covid list, New Orleans likely will be missing several starters. But few are more noticeable than at quarterback and in Book, the Saints have a quarterback who has made teammates take notice
"He's an unbelievable athlete, unbelievable quarterback," tight end Nick Vannett said. "If you guys just saw the things that he would do on scout team against our defense, sometimes you just sit back and, 'Oh my God, how did he pull that off?' I would say he's just as mobile as Taysom is.
"He's a dual threat, he can run around. I think he's a very good passer in all areas of the field. I think the biggest thing is that we've just got to do a good job of getting him settled into the game. We can't try to put too much on his plate right away, just kind of get him settled in, kind of build his confidence up a little bit. I think once we do that, we'll be fine."