Chargers New OC Joe Lombardi Excited About Justin Herbert and Offense

Chargers QB Justin Herbert will have his fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons.
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There is a new offensive coordinator in Los Angeles, and his name is Joe Lombardi. He will be the new play-caller for the offense this season. Lombardi brings numerous years of experience and knowledge, having coached in New Orleans.

Lombardi spoke to the media for the first time since being hired, and he spoke about numerous topics from going for it on fourth down to what seems to be everyone's favorite topic, quarterback Justin Herbert.

"He's got a skill set that is elite, and it appears there's nothing that he can't do," Lombardi said. "He's got an incredibly strong arm, good accuracy, and he's very athletic. Sounds like he's a real smart guy that's a good leader. So, I mean, he just checks all the boxes, and sky's the limit with a player like that."

Herbert is coming off a record-breaking rookie season in which he threw for over 4,300 yards and scored 36 touchdowns. What is important for the Chargers is to build on that.

Lombardi is seen around the NFL as a "quarterback whisperer." He was around quarterback Drew Brees for numerous seasons. Brees also missed some time, so he was able to help Teddy Bridgewater get paid by Carolina, help Taysom Hill get paid by the Saints, and help Jameis Winston potentially be the next starter for the Saints.

So what does he feel he brings to help Herbert with his development?

"You learn when you're with a guy like drew for that long, just with the details, the exactness of footwork and timing, preparation," explained Lombardi. "How drew communicates with his receivers and gets them on the same page as him. So, he's able to communicate exactly what he wants from them at the top of routes, or how to talk to him with their body language. Those are things that man they're coachable."

Having Herbert is huge, but the Chargers also have some big time weapons, which he knows all too well, having faced them in week five of last season.

"I don't know if I've ever seen anyone just consistently get separation like Keenan Allen and having another receiver like Mike (Williams) on the other side of them," said Lombardi.

Both receivers will have big chips on their shoulders because of how the 2020 season went and because neither of them got to 1,000 receiving yards. They will be motivated.

Lombardi also spoke about running back Austin Ekeler.

"I know that Ekeler has some of the skill sets that I'm used to seeing in New Orleans with whether it was Reggie (Bush) or Darren Sproles or AK (Alvin Kamara)," Lombardi explained. So that's exciting to have someone with that skill set, and you know, it's very exciting to come knowing that those pieces are in place and that we got a good chance to hit the ground running."

Lombardi has been an offensive coordinator once before for the Detroit Lions in 2014 and was fired a couple of games into the 2015 season. They fired him because the organization didn't feel like the offense had taken the necessary steps forward. He feels like he learned from his experience to be more flexible.

"When you're put in a new situation where the schedule is different, and maybe around coaches that weren't used to doing things the way that you were used to," Lombardi explained. "Just having the flexibility to adjust a little bit better, maybe than we did back then."

He is coming into a better situation because of the personnel the Chargers have around the offense. He feels like he has grown since his Lions days, but what will be very interesting is what this offense will look like in 2021.

When he was with the Lions, Lombardi's offense couldn't run the ball. In his only season, they ran the ball for 88.9 yards a game, which was 28th in the NFL. Now, the Saints have a very balanced attack. Last season, they passed the ball 53.5 percent of the time and ran the ball 47 percent of the time, which is close to the Chargers 53-47.8 percent.

"If you just look at bare statistics, you know, every time a quarterback drops back to pass, you average seven and a half to eight and a half yards per pass, and you might average four and a half yards per run," Lombardi explained. "So, man, it's easier sometimes to get big plays and chunks and get the ball downfield, passing it. But if you have no running game, then it becomes harder to throw, and so I think there's got to be a balance."

The offense will need to find a healthy balance.

"I heard a high school coach told me once, when I was really young, just starting out in coaching, he said, You, you pass the score, and you run to win," recalled Lombardi.

The new offensive coordinator was asked about his staff, football vision, and even what he plans to do to help the offensive line, but right now, Staley is still trying to figure out the rest of his staff.

"A lot of that will get detailed out when you get the whole staff together," said Lombardi. "Hopefully, in the next week or two, when we start sitting down, and combining all the ideas and molding those into a playbook that we can apply to each game during the season."

Another big issue with the previous regime was going for it on fourth down in crucial situations. Anthony Lynn and his staff didn't go for it in critical situations, which hurt them at the end of games.

"I'm a big fan of going for it on fourth down," said Lombardi. "Every game situation is different."

While he is a fan, he mentioned the offense wouldn't be careless, but Lombardi says he likes to put himself in the other teams shoes and thinks, 'what do they want me to do right in this situation? Punt it to them.' He also said he would factor in how well or bad the opposing team is doing on offense.

From talking to Staley and getting his idea for this offense's vision, Lombardi says it made it easy to say yes to the Chargers.

"So just his familiarity with me and what we've done here," Lombardi said. "It makes it such an easier transition not to mean that we're going to copy it, but just coming from a common background of football, to be able to get things started."

As previously mentioned, since the Chargers just filled out their coordinator positions, they will now begin hiring the rest of their coaching staff. The new offensive coordinator sees similarities between the way Staley is building his to his former head coach.

"Sean Payton often says it's, he's more interested in compatibility," recalled Lombardi. "First, before he thinks about capability, and I just think that the compatibility of what Brandon's building here is going to be second to none."

Lombardi has known Staley for years. He was his quarterback coach when Staley was the quarterback at Mercyhurst, but it wasn't until a couple of years later that Lombardi saw something special in the young coach.

"I think when he was at John Carroll, we were talking, and he was talking about maybe the possibility of, of getting into the NFL," recalled Lombardi. "I said, like, you'll get your chance, and I bet you, you'll be a head coach in five years when you get your chance. So pretty sure I called that one a long time ago."