Moments before opening kickoff on Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers were handed some unexpected news.
Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers starting quarterback, was having difficulty breathing during pregame warmups and was taken to a local hospital for a mysterious chest injury. Taylor became a surprise scratch to everyone, including rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who discovered he would be starting his first NFL game under center vs. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I had to tell him a couple times, 'No, seriously, you're the starting quarterback.' Once he realized he was the guy, he was fine."
22-year-old Justin Herbert thrusted into action.
The Oregon standout took Kansas City to overtime while completing 22-of-33 passes for 311 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his Los Angeles pro debut. It wasn’t quite the Hollywood ending though, as the Chargers fell 23-20 to the reigning NFL champs.
Herbert’s debut had social media buzzing. Even former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was singing Herbert’s praises.
"When you have a young guy that hasn't really had the opportunity to get the work prior to going in and playing in a regular-season game, go in, and play as well as he did against the defending Super Bowl Champs,” Hassebeck said on ESPN Sunday Night SportsCenter. “I think it makes the decision very easy for Anthony Lynn.”
Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer was also impressed with how poised Herbert was in his first NFL start.
“I thought he was really good,” Dilfer told The Herd with Colin Cowherd. “How about the poise? To find out right before kick that you're a starter. Your whole world is upside down. It's not like he got a lot of reps in practice last week. Then to go out in the game and not just perform well athletically and throw the ball well but have a calmness and a command to himself was really impressive.”
Apparently, Lynn didn’t feel the same. The Chargers head coach made it clear that Taylor is still the team’s starting QB as long as he’s healthy.
“If he’s 100 percent ready to go, he’s our starter,” Lynn said Sunday.
He doubled down on his stance when detailing why Herbert, the No. 6 pick in April’s draft, would not be under center.
“I know we can win with either quarterback. But the veteran quarterback right now gives us the best chance to win. It’s not like we won the damn game yesterday. We lost last time I checked.”
Ouch. So, what were Lynn’s expectations for Herbert in his first game with no time to prepare? Beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in his NFL debut? It’s not Herbert’s fault that the Chargers chose to punt in overtime on fourth-and-1, putting the ball back in Mahomes’ hands.
Lynn may be leaning into the headwinds in staying with Taylor, but without any notice, Herbert rose to the occasion and he thrived. It may have just been one game, but in my opinion, Lynn should continue to build on this success and name Herbert the team’s starting quarterback indefinitely.
[Listen to the latest Talkin' Ducks podcast with host Jordan Kent]