A lot of people are aware of the fact that Justin Herbert is what we in the sports word like to call “good,” but it doesn’t seem like the brilliant start to his career is being talked about enough.
After being selected No. 6 overall in the 2020 draft, his rookie campaign started in dubious fashion, as he was thrust into action after a Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured then-starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s lung when giving him an injection (don’t worry, Tyrod’s fine).
Herbert found out he was starting his first game, which happened to be against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, just moments before kickoff. With essentially zero notice that he was making his debut, he threw for 311 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Not bad.
From there, he — and the Chargers — never looked back. Herbert was entrenched as their quarterback of the future, despite the stubbornness in the preseason by then-head coach Anthony Lynn. For my money, I believe the way that Lynn handled the transfer of power at the quarterback position, which was widely scrutinized, was a contributing factor in him being let go.
Herbert was extraordinary for the rest of the season. Yes, there were some learning moments, but his poise in the pocket, his ability to read defenses, an arm that can make every throw, and his ability to lead his team was apparent. On more than one occasion, Lynn botched the clock management at the end of games. Their record of 7-9 doesn’t come close to showing their talent, especially when you consider that they won their last four games of the season.
I don’t say this with a single trace of hyperbole — this was one of the greatest rookie quarterback seasons of all time. Don’t believe me? See below.
And his 4336 yards passing came up just 36 yards short of the rookie quarterback passing yards record set by Andrew Luck in 2012. Luck played in all 16 games that season. If Herbert was given the chance to play in Week 1, instead of Anthony Lynn insisting that he needed more time to sit and learn, Herbert would own essentially every rookie quarterback statistical record, ever.
Think about that.
Not only do the Chargers have a stud quarterback on a rookie deal, but they are doing everything they can to set their young gunslinger up for success. They went out and spent big on former Green Bay Packers All-Pro center Corey Linsley in free agency — making him the highest-paid center in the league — and doubled-down by taking stud tackle Rashawn Slater in the first round of the draft. Their offensive line has been solidified, metaphorically and literally protecting their future in Herbert.
After taking care of their offensive line, the Bolts continued to add to their already-deep group of skill players. Their offense is already headlined by wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, with dual-threat back Austin Ekeler in the backfield. They brought in veteran Jared Cook in free agency to replace the departed Hunter Henry, used a pair of third-round picks on wide receiver Josh Palmer out of Tennessee and tight end Tre’ McKitty from Georgia.
The Chargers are doing everything right. While they have to stare down division rival Kansas City and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes twice per year, what they’re building around Herbert should give their fans hope and optimism that they can make a run at the best teams in the AFC.