For over 15 years, the Los Angeles Chargers have had the benefit of high-level play from the quarterback position.
Starting in 2006, Philip Rivers was the face of the team, and he instantly made it a Super Bowl contender.
In the years afterward, as there was significant roster turnover on both sides of the football, Rivers usually at least gave the Chargers a shot at making the playoffs.
Following the 2019 season, he decided it was time to move on, and it was anyone’s guess as to how long it would take them to find another franchise QB.
It took only about a month, as the Chargers had the incredibly good fortune of drafting Justin Herbert with the sixth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In just two seasons, Herbert has emerged as a legitimate superstar signal-caller and even an MVP candidate for this season.
Mike Martz, the former offensive coordinator and head coach of the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams teams that were led by Kurt Warner, gave Herbert some massive praise, partly because of his work ethic and commitment.
But Martz isn’t the only one who is impressed with the QB’s intangibles.
Keenan Allen, the Chargers’ star wide receiver who has played with both Herbert and Rivers, gave the former some similar praise while criticizing the latter a bit.
Keenan Allen on Justin Herbert: "You see him. He stays like an hour and a half after practice just throwing balls. It's crazy."
When asked why he laughed, Allen said with a smile: "Philip never stayed after practice to throw the ball."
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) August 18, 2022
“You see him,” Allen said of Herbert. “He stays like an hour and a half after practice just throwing balls. It’s crazy.”
Allen then laughed, and he said that he laughed because, “Philip [Rivers] never stayed after practice to throw the ball.”
Chargers fans should feel very grateful, as their team has an embarrassment of riches right now, and it starts under center.
Rivers Was Very Good, But He Couldn’t Get The Bolts Over The Hump
In 2006, his first season as the Chargers full-time starter, Rivers was fairly impressive, recording 3,388 yards and 22 touchdowns.
With running back LaDainian Tomlinson making a mockery of opposing defenses, the then-San Diego based team went 14-2 in the regular season, but they blew a 21-13 fourth-quarter lead in the Divisional Round to the New England Patriots.
The following year, the Chargers suffered another painful loss to the Patriots, this time in the AFC Championship Game.
They would never play in another conference championship game with Rivers under center.
Over the years, Rivers was a very good QB, as he would reach the Pro Bowl eight times, but there was something left to be desired.
In red zone and clutch situations, Chargers fans felt Rivers never quite got the job done well enough.
In addition, he was somewhat turnover-prone, as he led the NFL in interceptions twice and had an interception rate of 2.6 percent for his career.
Herbert Seems To Be Better Than Rivers Ever Was
In 2021, Herbert put up 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns, numbers that were greater than Rivers’ career bests in either category.
At 6-foot-6 and 237 pounds, the 24-year-old seems to have a cannon for an arm, and he has also shown that he is clutch.
As a rookie in 2020, Herbert led three game-winning drives, and last season he had five, more than Rivers ever had in one year.
Herbert’s five fourth-quarter comebacks last year were also more than Rivers ever mustered in a season.
If the Chargers win the AFC West, and especially if they finish with the best record in the conference, look for Herbert to garner some serious consideration for the league MVP award.