Left as the only quarterback on the Saints' roster after Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian landed on the reserve/COVID list, Ian Book didn't have to think long and hard to know who was next in line.
"I did the math there pretty quickly," quipped Book on Friday, via the Associated Press.
The Saints are preparing to start Book on Monday night versus the Dolphins, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Thursday. Though there is a chance either Hill or Siemian could test out of COVID-19 protocols in time to be activated by Monday's game, the third-string rookie is preparing himself mentally.
"I'm planning on playing," said Book. "You can't just flip that switch on Monday morning, trying to get ready. It doesn't work like that, especially at the quarterback position."
Book was a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Saints and the 23-year-old has plenty of big-game experience during his three years as a starter at Notre Dame. Book's 30 total wins are the most in the program's rich history, and his 72 touchdown passes are second-most for the Irish behind Brady Quinn (95).
In what would be his first NFL action, not to mention his first start, Book will be fortunate to have Sean Payton calling plays in his ear after the Saints head coach was forced to miss last week's game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Payton was cleared to return to the team on Friday.
"He's played in real big games and he's done it consistently -- if you're measuring wins and losses -- better than any quarterback in Notre Dame history," Payton said on Friday. "Obviously, there's a transition to this level, but I think he's up for the challenge."
While Payton shows confidence in Book, he maintains that the coaching staff and a total team effort will be necessary for a squad dealing with several other absences due to to COVID-19, including key players such as linebacker Demario Davis, tackle Ryan Ramczyk and safety Malcolm Jenkins. Veteran QB Blake Bortles was signed by the Saints on Friday as a would-be backup to Book.
"He's going to do fine. He's excited about the opportunity," Payton added. "It's up to us to give him the right things relative to the game and where we're at offensively."
Said Book: "I've got this whole team behind me. I feel like all these guys got my back and just to hear everyone, how excited they are that I get a chance, is pretty cool."
Book will be the fourth starting QB for New Orleans in 2021, a tumultuous season for an offense that endured Jameis Winston tearing his ACL in Week 8, wideout Michael Thomas' season-long absence due to a long-lasting ankle injury, star running back Alvin Kamara (knee) out for an entire month, and Pro Bowl tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead unavailable for a fair share of games due to injury.
The Saints' 311.7 total yards per game rank 26th in the NFL. After a 5-2 start to the season before Winston's season-ending knee injury, New Orleans sits at 7-7 entering Monday night after winning its last two.
Entering Week 16, the Saints are on the bubble in the NFC playoff picture and face a red-hot Dolphins (7-7) team looking to win their seventh straight. With Book raring to go, the table is set for a rocking prime-time game in New Orleans with major playoff implications for both teams.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Book said. "I don't know what it's going to feel like. I've played in big games, but I think this is the biggest, obviously. We're professionals now and this is Monday Night Football."