Chargers readily embrace the Justin Herbert era

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn didn’t waste time in his weekly media press conference when he made the announcement that the unofficial had become official: Justin Herbert is the starting quarterback for the Chargers now and for the future.

“I’m going to go ahead and start with this statement and get this out of the way because I know it’s going to come up, OK?” Lynn stated. “Justin Herbert, that young man…He has impressed from the very beginning, throwing him in there in the situation I threw in against Kansas City. I mean, the ball was in the air when he found out that he was going to be the starting quarterback. I just liked the way he handled that situation and everything he’s done afterward.”

That was just a teaser to Lynn’s big announcement that Herbert would be taking off his training wheels and is now expected to ride this bike on his own. Simply put, Herbert now has the keys to the franchise. Lynn’s decision to make Herbert the starter the rest of the way for the 2020 NFL season and beyond means the Chargers will be putting their present faith into the future of the franchise.

It also means that there is little or no more room for error for the Chargers if they want to reach the playoffs this season.

After winning their game of the season in a road win against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chargers have gone 0-3 in their last three games. In those three games, Herbert took over the reins as the starting quarterback. The rookie signal-caller from the University of Oregon got his baptism-by-fire introduction into the NFL when he was called on at the last second to fill-in for veteran Tyrod Taylor in the Chargers’ first home game of the season against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers rookie Justin Herbert is getting the job done. Photo by Los Angeles Chargers

Although he accounted for a costly interception in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Chiefs, Herbert looked every bit the part of the No. 6 overall draft pick that the Chargers made him in the 2020 NFL Draft. For a game he was not expected to do anything but watch the action from the sidelines, Herbert completed 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown.

For good measure, Herbert added a rushing score to show off his running skills. It was a pretty good show indeed. Herbert, however, didn’t see it that way.

“I think, unfortunately, since we lost, I can’t say too well,” Herbert said. “There are definitely things that I did poorly, and there are going to be things that I’m going to look at in film and watch. Any chance I can get out there is huge. I’m going to look at it, watch it and I know I’m going to get better from it.”

In Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, Herbert may have played even better than he did against Kansas City, connecting on 35 of his 49 pass attempts for 330 yards and a score in the Chargers’ 21-16 defeat.

“The young man completed 72 [or] 73 percent of his balls,” Lynn said about Herbert’s performance. “I thought he threw it pretty well today. He had a few drops as a matter of fact so — I was not disappointed in his performance. I would love to take the interception back, but other than that he was fine.”

The pattern of excellence Herbert had shown was somewhat negated by a fumble and interception against Carolina. Setting aside those miscues, Herbert was beginning to make quite an impression.  He certainly impressed Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians. Herbert completed 20 of 25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers’ 38-31 defeat.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers

“I told [Chargers Head Coach] Anthony [Lynn] after the game – I said, ‘You’ve got a great one.’ That retreating play – that looked like [Chiefs QB Patrick] Mahomes where we had an all-out blitz and he just kept retreating and threw a dime down the field,” Arians said. “For rookies to make plays like that, you know they’re special.”

If that wasn’t enough praise, Herbert received a round of endorsement from Tom Brady.

“He was very impressive today and he played great,” Brady said of Herbert. “Our defense played great all year and he hung in there and made a lot of good throws. They hit us on some big plays – we blitzed them a little bit and he just stood in there and took it. He’s got, obviously, all the ability, he’s got a great arm and moves really well. The team believes in him, so he’s off to a great start.”

In three games as the starter, Herbert has completed 72 percent of his passes and thrown for 931 yards with five touchdowns threw the air. He has played with poise and looks relatively unbothered when defenders come full bore right at him. Lynn said he likes what he sees in the first-year player.

“I think he’s shown the consistency that you look for, especially in a rookie quarterback,” Lynn said. “And he’s made some pretty nice throws. He’s made some helluva plays. So I think this young man is going to continually get better. And I know we can win with him. I believe that. We haven’t done it yet, but I do believe those wins are coming. I’m only saying this because Justin is going to start Monday night in New Orleans and Justin is going to be our starting quarterback.”

In making his proclamation in praising Herbert, Lynn said all the right things about Taylor. Taylor lost his job by default. That happened when a team doctor accidentally punctured Taylor’s lungs right before the Chargers-Chiefs game when he was trying to inject painkillers into the veteran quarterback who was dealing with cracked ribs at the time, thus creating the starting opportunity for Herbert.

“I did not take that decision lightly because Tyrod Taylor is a veteran quarterback with a winning record in this league, which is very hard to do,” said Lynn. “He’s one of the best in the game in taking care of the football. I thought it would have been ideal for us to play this year with Tyrod Taylor as a starter and for Justin to watch and learn, similar to what Patrick Mahomes did in Kansas City, but it didn’t work out that way. He [Herbert] got thrown in the fire, and I thought he handled the situation well and I want to see more of him. And it’s not going to be a situation where he’s looking over his shoulders. He’s our starting quarterback.”

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