The pivotal moment came when five picks arrived in the NFL’s remote, pandemic-hit 2020 draft, with the fate of the franchise hanging in their hands nearly 2,800 miles away.
When Miami picked Tua Tagovailoa, the Chargers were left with a choice that was the most obvious at the time and would soon make an incredible fortune.
With the sixth pick, they took Justin Herbert.
“Meeting a quarterback like Justin changes everything,” said Shane Day, now Herbert’s positional coach. “It would change everything for every team in the league.”
With one appearance and zero Super Bowl titles, the Chargers are supposedly cursed, right? Load is a word invented to describe the myriad ways in which games, seasons, and entire decades have inexplicably collapsed for this doomed franchise.
Yet when Herbert was the one standing right in front of them, the Chargers received a gift that would so ridiculously lengthen a run that only one word can properly describe this organization: blessed.
Blessed at the most important position in all sports.
Since Week 1 of the 2006 season, the Chargers have only started three players as quarterback, and one of them – Tyrod Taylor – only appeared in a single game.
During the same time:
Atlanta has six players starting as quarterbacks — though Matt Ryan has held the job for 14 years.
New England had seven — although Tom Brady has spent 20 seasons there.
Green Bay had eight — despite being acquired by Aaron Rodgers in 2008.
“We’ve seen how desperate some teams are trying to find a quarterback,” said running back Austin Ekeler. “Bringing Herbert here and doing what he’s been doing must give you a lot of peace of mind as a general manager at night.
“It’s a relief for us too. We know we have a guy. Our reality is that there is a real mystery as to how far we can go. Justin has such an amazing talent line. I’m also very excited to see where our cap stands as a team.”
That’s just three starting quarterbacks over a streak of 273 regular-season games, the first 240 of which were filled by Philip Rivers. Then came Taylor’s one start, followed by Herbert for 32 games.
Blessed? As of 2006, the Chargers have had as many home stadiums as quarterbacks. They had five head coaches during that time.
Since Rivers started that stretch, each of the Chargers’ three AFC West rivals — Denver, Kansas City and Las Vegas — has had at least one season in which three different players have started as quarterbacks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, now retired, started for nine different teams while the Chargers displayed an absurd consistency. Do you want to talk Load? Cleveland has started 24 players at quarterback since 2006.
“They made a great choice,” said wide receiver Mike Williams. “That’s all you can say, right? Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to. This one is going the way everyone wanted it to.”
The longest serving Chargers had no idea what the team had in Herbert as he made his first career start as a desperate late replacement for Taylor in Week 2 of the 2020 season.
Keenan Allen said Herbert trudged onto the field at SoFi Stadium that afternoon with no idea what was going to happen next.
“You couldn’t really tell because he went to camp with the two,” said the veteran wide receiver. “We were with Tyrod. We knew he obviously had a big arm. But we had Tyrod. So, you know, we just didn’t even think about it.”
Herbert is entering his third year standing on foundations unmatched in league history. No one had more completions (839), passing yards (9,350), or touchdown passes (69) in the first two seasons of a career.
The Chargers invested their 2021 and 2022 first-round picks to bolster the front line tasked with protecting Herbert. The offensive line, considered a weakness by Rivers last season, is now a strength.
Joshua Palmer has emerged as a legitimate third target at wide receiver, tight end Gerald Everett has been signed to free agency and veteran running back Sony Michel was added last week.
The Chargers have built even more potential around their young quarterback after being a top-five offensive player in yards and points last season.
And yet more happens here at Herbert, more than can be expressed in numbers or records. His presence alone makes the Chargers believe among the league leaders.
“Philip was amazing,” said edge rusher Joey Bosa. “He’s a quarterback in the Hall of Fame. But having this young talent that can just hurl it from any part of the field is just a different feeling, especially when you’re down in the fourth quarter and have the ball last.
Late as a freshman, Herbert hit streaks in three straight games, setting another NFL mark. He led the Chargers by 15 points in the final five minutes to force overtime in his final game.
In 2020, before he faced Tampa Bay, Herbert was asked if he wanted to play as long as Brady. He said he liked the idea of playing quarterback into his 40s.
At the end of the Chargers’ offseason program in June – after weeks of work – he was asked about his vacation plans. “I have the feeling,” Herbert replied, “I’m kind of on vacation right now.”
With a desire for longevity and a love of football, who knows how much longer he will lead this side? He’s only 24. Could the 2032 Chargers have the same quarterback as the 2022 version? How about the 2042 chargers?
If that sounds crazy, so does the stability this franchise already enjoys at Herbert’s position.
“This year you’ve seen Justin grow and grow and grow in every way,” Day said. “I don’t think there are any limits for him. he is so young He works hard every day. He is humble. There is no upper limit for this guy.
“That’s why I like coming here every day. It’s so exciting to see him continue to rise. He’s got all the physical abilities that everyone sees and then all the mental stuff that comes with that. It is wonderful. He is Great.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-09-04/justin-herbert-franchise-quarterback-chargers-impact Justin Herbert is QB capable of breaking Chargers’ curse