Justin Herbert is in command of the Los Angeles Chargers right now, and finally, his coach Anthony Lynn is taking notice.
Lynn criticized Herbert in his debut against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 saying “there’s a lot we didn’t get done with Justin on the field,” and stating Herbert is “a backup for the reason.”
Since Lynn’s blunt comments, there’s been a turn of the tides. Lynn told the media during his Monday availability that the narrative that he doesn’t like his No. 6 overall pick couldn’t be further from the truth.
"I know you guys got to me after we lost the Kansas City game and caught me in a pissed off mood. Wanted me to complement everybody and I wasn’t going to do that." Lynn continued, "There's a right time for that. And somehow the narrative is that I don’t like my quarterback for whatever reason. We drafted this young man at number six in the draft. I’m tied to this young man...
The former Oregon standout has dazzled since taking the helm as Los Angeles’ starting QB with veteran Tyrod Taylor sidelined with a punctured lung. It was a move Lynn was hesitant to make considering many rookie QBs struggle when they haven’t had much time to develop.
“I feel like I need to protect him too,” Lynn said. “A lot of young quarterbacks come into this league and they struggle when you throw them in there and they need to play right away. So I’ve got to balance throwing him in there right away into the fire or letting him sit, watch, and learn like Patrick Mahomes did. And that’s something that I’m evaluating.”
Herbert has averaged 310 yards per game, good for fourth best in the NFL, and as of last week, he joined Cam Newton as the only other quarterback since 1970 to have more than 900 passing yards combined in his first three games.
Even Tom Brady, 43, was singing the rook’s praises after Sunday’s game.
"He was very impressive today, and he played great," said Brady. "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...
Despite Herbert’s impressive NFL start, the Chargers are 1-3 and the 22-year-old is still seeking his first win as a pro. Lynn has yet to proclaim the rookie as the LA’s permanent starter.
“It’s not really my decision,” Herbert said of keeping his new gig. “What I think doesn’t really matter. I know that I’ve done my best these past couple of weeks. I’ve got so much farther to go, so much more to learn.”
If Lynn and the Chargers know what’s good for them, they’ll continue to unleash Herbert as LA’s starting quarterback permanently.
As the Chargers prepare for Monday Night Football vs. the New Orleans Saints, Lynn said it’s still to be determined whether Taylor will miss a fourth-straight week. If he does, expect Herbert to be under center against another future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees.
"He’s week-to-week. I’ll know a little bit more by the end of tomorrow when I see him and talk with our trainers and doctors," Lynn said.
“But if Tyrod can’t go, perfectly fine with Justin and what he’s done. I feel like we have two quarterbacks that we can potentially win with. This young man has stepped up and I think has done a good job.”