Saying that the Los Angeles Chargers season has been a disappointment would be a massive understatement. As of Week 11, they sit at 3-7, and last in the AFC West: but, there has been one bright spot: University of Oregon’s very own, Justin Herbert. Herbert has lit up the stat sheets in his nine starts in a season where he was expected to learn under veteran Tyrod Taylor. Herbert has eclipsed 300 passing yards in five of his nine starts and has thrown for three or more touchdowns in as many, while adding some damage to defense with his legs, via three rushing touchdowns.
As of Week 11, Herbert is on pace to set the NFL record for most completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns by a rookie (in 15 starts too). With Joe Burrow out for the year, Herbert has a great shot at Rookie of the year. Stats clearly show Herbert is not the problem, and there is lots of evidence to show his best is yet to come.
The Chargers record doesnt tell the story
To say the least, the Chargers’ defense has been poor. They are on the bottom end of the league in terms of scoring defense, but in terms of rushing and passing yards allowed, they are middle of the pack. They are actually one of the better teams in terms of penalties as well, with only 61 total flags on the year.
By no means are these Super Bowl-caliber statistics, but they certainly don’t translate to a 3-7 record, especially when they are 3rd in total yards per game. The problem in the win collum comes down to three main problems: the first being strength of the schedule.
The Chargers are in one of the stronger divisions in the NFL tasked with facing last year’s Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Cheifs, twice a year as well as Jon Gruden’s Raiders, who sit at 6-4, but own the rights to the Cheifs’ only loss this year. As for the Broncos, the injury bug has hit them bad this year, as well as mediocre QB play from 2nd-year quarterback, Drew Lock, surrounded with young and unproven talent.
The second reason for the lackluster record the Chargers possess is team injuries. Throughout the year, they have lost Pro Bowl safety Derwin James, starting center, Mike Pouncey, all-pro corner, Chris Harris, star running back, Austin Ekeler, Drew Tranquill, Brandon Facyson, and many others. The Chargers have lost two games in overtime (one to the Cheifs even), and every loss has been by 1 touchdown or less, which leads me to the third reason: coaching.
Anthony Lynn has been decent in his coaching role with the Chargers; he started with two straight winning seasons in 2017 and 2018, but last year went 5-11 (albeit without Philip Rivers). Lynn is by no means a bad coach, but his and offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen’s play-calling in crunch time has been questionable, to put it mildly. In close games, which the Chargers seem to always find themselves in, they fall apart in 2-minute drives and come up just short on final plays, miss game-winning kicks, or just have some head-scratching play calls to close games.
The Charger’s slew of bad luck is bound to end, but surrounding Herbert with competence in the coaching staff has to be a priority for the Chargers. The Chargers have the potential to succeed and compete at a high level, so expect Anthony Lynn to be on the hot seat because the Chargers are wasting the primes of many superstar players.
Future of the Chargers and Herbert
Being a Chargers fan this year has been an emotional rollercoaster, but there is more upside than you think; regardless of the losses in close games, the Chargers would most likely not have gone far in the playoffs if they had a winning record due to inexperience and injury; but, next year could prove to be a great step forward for the Chargers. The Chargers have the 9th most cap space going into free agency and don’t have to worry about their QB, who is on his rookie deal.
Tyrod Taylor will most likely be let walk in free agency and the only big free agents the Chargers have are Hunter Henry, Mike Pouncey, Melvin Ingram, and Denzel Perryman; and, with three wins as of Week 11 and a tough schedule coming up, expect a top-12 pick in the 2021 draft. With that said, if the Chargers want to win, their main focus needs to be building around Herbert. They need to use a draft pick on a lineman for the future and use that cap space to beef up the rest of the holes on the front five.
Other team needs include a slot corner to replace Desmond King and a pass rusher opposite Joey Bosa. With Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler, Herbert is surrounded by weapons, but a slot receiver would definitely provide depth to an already strong offense. If we see a healthy Chargers team next year, and the front office does its job drafting and filling the holes of the team, not only will Herbert make a giant leap, but the Chargers will be competing for the AFC West title.