The 2021 season will probably feel like déjà vu for Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. He knew going into the offseason that he would have his fifth head coach in six years, even dating back to his Oregon Duck days. He will also have his sixth offensive coordinator in six years.
His new offensive coordinator will be Joe Lombardi, who was the New Orleans Saints quarterback's coach for the last five seasons. He saw first-hand how a future hall of fame quarterback takes command of an offense in Drew Brees.
This is Lombardi's second chance at being an offensive coordinator after he was with the Detroit Lions for 23 games and a lackluster first stint.
"I think the biggest thing is just being able to be more flexible, I think, spending so much time in New Orleans and doing things one way, doing things one way you kind of got used to that," explained Lombardi when he was hired. "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, just having the flexibility to adjust a little bit better, maybe than we did back then."
The Chargers and new head coach Brandon Staley are obviously confident in Lombardi and trusting him to continue developing their franchise quarterback.
Herbert got the chance to see how the Saints offense worked week five when the Chargers blew a big lead against Drew Brees and company. After the game was the first time he met the veteran quarterback, and since the hiring of Lombardi, Herbert has reached out to learn more.
"His system with the Saints was really impressive, and (I) got the chance to talk with Drew a little bit, Drew Brees, about it," explained Herbert when he spoke to the media in late April. "Drew is has always done such a great job of making the MIKE ID points himself, and he's just kind of run that system. So, it's going to be something I have to get used to. It's something I'm going to have to spend a lot of time with, but I'm really looking forward to it."
In his rookie year, Herbert had a chance to play against a lot of great quarterbacks like Brees, Tom Brady, and Patrick Mahomes. He mentioned numerous times how impressed he was facing these guys while also picking Brees' mind.
"I grew up watching him grew up watching all those guys and to be able to play against them, meet him after the game and just see him outside of football as well," explained Herbert. "Just being able to talk with him and see how he managed the game, how he goes about everything. I've got a lot to learn."
For this system to work, the Chargers brass knew they needed the offensive line to be better. Brees' offensive line the last few years was one of the best in the NFL, so the Bolts needed to go from worst to first or close to first.
The Bolts let four of their five starters walk in free agency. They added guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, drafted left tackle Rashawn Slater and guard Breden Jaimes, but the most significant signing was all-pro center Corey Linsley, who is going from snapping for Aaron Rodgers to now Herbert.
"So, we've been on a couple zoom calls and kind of talking with him on the phone," said Herbert about his new center. "You know, I've been able to watch him over the past couple of years. He's really impressive what he does, and he's one of the best, if not the best. So, bringing him here, I'm really excited to play behind him."
Since being hired, Staley has been trying to get the offense fixed, which on paper, it looks like solid additions. He has also tried to develop a close relationship with his quarterback. He was the second person he called after his wife when he was hired as the head coach.
They are building a close relationship.
"Having played quarterback and being a defensive mind guy," said Herbert. "He knows all about the game, and sometimes you get to meet and talk to them about football and talk on the phone. He's passionate about what he does. I'm really excited to work with him about that. I mean, I think he's brought in some pretty incredible staff members. So being able to work with them is going to be really exciting too."
During the time off, Herbert took time to be with family in Eugene, Oregon, then came back to LA and has had many activities. He has gone golfing with friends, teammates and cooking brisket. Plus, he was at a paintball game held by receiver Mike Williams while also taking some time to study.
"It's nice to have some time off and some time to watch the film and get back to things and kind of get away from football at times," said Herbert about the offseason.
When he last spoke to the media in late April, he hadn't yet start throwing, but since then, Herbert has begun throwing. Keenan Allen posted a video of a lot of Chargers players getting together at a park near the facility. Herbert looks bigger, leaner, and stronger.
As for now, he will continue learning and understanding the playbook. Even though it is a new coaching staff, he will do what he has always done, adapt.
"I think there'll be parts that are pretty similar but then other parts that are that aren't so similar," said Herbert. "I think one of the great things that I've had to go through is I've had to go through three or four different offenses, and you've had to kind of find a way to learn and pick them up quickly. I think I've done a good job of that, and hopefully, this year is no different."