The 2020 season had some rough patches for the Los Angeles Chargers. What made up for it was the play of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
During the NFL Honors on Saturday, Herbert was awarded the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, which was his second award in the last week. He also won the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Year award. For him, it is an organizational recognition, not just one player.
"The awards have been awesome," said Herbert. "I think it highlights our team. And it's not an individual award. I think I'm not here without my team without the linemen, the receivers, tight ends running back to all those guys who make so many plays throughout the year."
He was drafted sixth overall by the Chargers out of the University of Oregon. There was no offseason for the incoming rookie players. They didn't get to meet the coaches or teammates until training camp in late July. Herbert also came in as the second-string quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor.
"This past offseason, I knew that I wanted to be prepared for that when the time came," Herbert said. "So, I'm putting in a lot of the work. A lot of the coaches that helped me out throughout the year, an incredible team that made this all possible. So, without them, I'm really not here accepting the award."
Herbert put on a show for fans who had to watch at home, scoring 36 total touchdowns in his first season. He admitted that was his favorite record because it meant he could celebrate with his teammates.
There were some rookie struggles, especially against the AFC East (minus the New York Jets). The Bills, Patriots, and Dolphins all disguised their formations to throw the rookie quarterback off. He finished off the season with a four-game win streak and felt like he learned from those mistakes.
"I think my understanding of the game of football has gotten better week in and week out we got to see more defenses," explained Herbert. "You see different coverages, pressures, you get a feel for, and that's experienced. I think that's the best teacher, and having gone through that, I feel like I'm a better quarterback."
The Chargers quarterback spent the last month in Eugene, Oregon visiting his family. He wanted to disconnect for a little bit. He went to Pebble Beach to play golf with his buddies and even met CBS NFL broadcaster, Jim Nantz. He also learned how to prepare a brisket with Chad Ward. He now even is part of Stryve beef biltong.
"So, I came back down yesterday, ready to get back to the lift, running, and watching film," explained Herbert. "So, it was it was nice to have some time off, but ready to get back at work."
Herbert said numerous times during his press conference how important this offseason is for him. Teams now have film on him and will be looking how to slow him down.
He has begun to reach out to current and former NFL quarterbacks to pick their brains.
"I'm going to try not to bother them too much because I've got a bunch of questions about how to watch film, how to prepare for defenses," said Herbert. "There are things that I can always get better at, and these guys have had so much success that if I didn't ask him, that's on me. And it's an opportunity for me to learn from them."
Some quarterbacks get back into the lab and being doing numerous things except throwing. They like to give their arm some time to rest.
"I'll probably take a little bit more time off than throwing. It's been a long year on the arm, and I think kind of resting and letting it get back to full health is definitely important," explained Herbert. "So, I think kind of these next couple of months. I think it's going to be running, lifting, and studying the playbook."
Speaking of the playbook, the Chargers have a new coaching staff. Brandon Staley is now the head coach, while former New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi is the offensive coordinator.
Herbert has spoken to his new offensive coordinator. Lombardi is going to "mix and match" his offense to fix some of what helped Herbert succeed last season, and he will also bring some of what the Saints did on offense as well. He is excited to get his hands on the playbook.
"I think it's sometime soon, whether it's this week or next week, it's going to be soon, and thankfully, we've got a little bit more time this year to kind of study and be able to learn it," said Herbert.
The former Oregon Duck is a smart individual, so he wants to master anything he does, especially football. That is why he is reaching out to quarterbacks. He also wants to reach out to current Saint quarterback Drew Brees, who was with Lombardi for years.
"I plan on doing that. I was fortunate enough to be able to kind of watch Drew throw this past offseason, and he trains with a lot of the guys that I do with John Beck and Adam Dado and 3-D QB," said Herbert.
That is where Brees trains and where Herbert trained last year.
For now, the young quarterback will begin working for 2021. He, along with the organization, hopes will be his first trip to the playoffs as an NFL quarterback.