When freshman quarterback Justin Herbert took over the reigns six games into his collegiate football career, some questioned his acts of leadership, or rather lack of leadership.
Herbert had a quiet demeanor. He wasn’t talkative to the media during press conferences and chose to lead by example rather than use his voice.
On the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast, host Jordan Kent was joined by former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz to talk about Herbert’s future in the NFL:
I tried so hard to get someone to give me something. Like, ‘He melted one time under pressure’ or ‘He yelled at a teammate’ or ‘He cried,’ whatever it was. Just something. Give me one piece of information that tells me he can’t lead the team. I got none of it. No one would say anything. — Geoff Schwartz
Schwartz even called out former Oregon football head coach Willie Taggart (2017-2018) for raising this awareness of Herbert’s quiet demeanor.
The thing about Herbert-- One, is that all leadership stuff was ridiculous. I’m sure you’ve heard people talking… it’s from Willie Taggart. It’s ridiculous. The leadership is not a problem.
The Willie Taggart era of Oregon football was like a summer fling gone wrong. You took a chance hoping for the best, and at the beginning it was with that whole ‘Do Something’ campaign, the inspirational quotes on social, the lollipops at practice, landing a few big time recruits. But then, as the time passed, the true colors came out. And just as you were thinking about breaking up, the person beats you to the punch and breaks up with you before summer was over.
A waste of time? For most Oregon football fans, perhaps.
Following the 2017 season, Taggart did not name a starting quarterback despite Herbert being the starter at the conclusion of the 2016 season. After the spring game, Taggart called out Herbert’s leadership:
"I'm looking for more than just throwing touchdowns. I'm looking for a guy that can lead this football team. A guy that's going to rally everybody on this team, not just the offensive guys, but defense and everyone. When we can find that guy, that's when we are going to name a starter."
Translation: Herbert's leadership skills are lacking and holding him back.
Well, the rest is history. Taggart darted for his ‘dream job’ at Florida State before finishing out the season at Oregon; Mario Cristobal was appointed as head coach; the Ducks went on to be Pac-12 champions and Rose Bowl victors behind their fearless leader Justin Herbert; Taggart is now coaching his third team in four seasons.
You can listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast here.