The rookie season for Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has come to an end. The sixth overall pick played his first season at a high-level, earning praise from Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees just to name a few.
Herbert finished off his rookie season with a 22 for 31, throwing 302 yards, four total touchdowns, and a victory in Kansas City. Yes, it was against backups, but he had a couple of backups playing on his side as well.
In 15 games this season, the rookie quarterback completed 67 percent of his passes, threw for 4336 yards, 31 touchdowns, and only ten interceptions. He went 6-9 but really showed what he was made of in 2020.
"I think it's very impressive," explained head coach Anthony Lynn. "I was pleased overall with his development, his growth, and I look forward to his future in this league. I think he's going to have a bright, bright future."
It was far from a perfect season. The team blew leads, lost close games, and played bad football at times, but for Herbert's development, the season's final stretch is a victory.
Five weeks ago, the Chargers lost 45-0 against the New England Patriots. They decided to come together and rattled off four consecutive wins.
"I think the way that everyone battled back and fought together, I think, was huge," said Herbert. "We lost a couple of close games that we could have been in, and we could have had the guys didn't quit on each other. That team, that locker room, they took care of business, and we got after these past four weeks, and I'm really proud to be a part of that locker room."
The Chargers were able to turn their late-game struggles into strengths because of their young quarterback. He turned a corner in that area.
At times, he didn't have Keenan Allen or Mike Williams or Hunter Henry, but he set up a field goal to beat the Falcons. He was able to get over the goal line against the Raiders. He set up Michael Badgley against the Broncos. He was able to score four touchdowns against Kansas City.
"I found out that we're pretty tough," said Herbert.
Herbert learned a valuable lesson in his first season.
"I think anytime you win a game is big in the NFL, and they're tough to come by," said Herbert. "So, anyone that we can get will take gladly. So, it just adds to experience it. You get to play through these situations through these experiences, and you get to learn."
After drafting Herbert, Lynn knew he needed someone he could trust to groom his young quarterback. He wanted former Indianapolis offensive coordinator and XFL head coach Pep Hamilton.
Since the very beginning, Hamilton and Herbert hit it off. During training camp, they ran sprints and talked ball after practice. Reflecting on the season, Herbert was very appreciative of his quarterback's coach.
"Before every game, he tells me to go have fun to realize that it's just a game and that you go out there and you play relaxed, that's when you're going to play your best," said Herbert about his quarterback's coach. "So, I give him a big hug before every game, we go out there and just try to have fun, do our job, execute."
On Sunday, Herbert broke Cam Newton's record for most touchdowns in a rookie season. Newton had 35 while Herbert finished his season with 36. One record many fans hoped the rookie quarterback would break was most passing yards by a rookie quarterback set by Andrew Luck.
Coming into Sunday's game, Herbert needed 341. He finished the game 39 yards shy.
"No, I'm not disappointed," said Herbert. "I'm just glad we got the win. I'm glad that you know we finished the season out strong with four wins and really proud of the way the guys battled today."
Did he know how close he was?
"Did a pretty good job of kind of staying away from it," said Herbert. "I know a couple of guys were trying to whisper in my ear, let me know. But I think I think I did a good job of just going out there and playing."
Herbert has been this way all season. He shrugs off that stuff and just wants to win football games. Now, Herbert is in a battle with Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, who has also been on a tear. He finished with 1,400 receiving yards (most in the Super Bowl era) and seven touchdowns.
"I think it'd be a great opportunity for our offense," explained Herbert. "I don't think it's an individual award. I think it's based on the guys around you Keenan (Allen), Mike (Williams), and Hunter (Henry). All those offensive linemen Dan (Feeney), Forrest (Lamp), Bryan (Bulaga), Trai (Turner, I mean, I wish I could name them all. But I think anything like that recognizes one guy I think it's because of everyone."
This is Justin Herbert. He wants to win football games. He wants to win Super Bowls. He wants to be the best quarterback he can be for the Los Angeles Chargers.
If his rookie season is any indication, then the Chargers could become contenders for the AFC West for years to come.