Most of us probably know the story by now. In Week 2, rookie Justin Herbert unexpectedly started for the Los Angeles Chargers while Tyrod Taylor dealt with a mysterious injury – later revealed to be the team doctor accidentally puncturing his lung. But Herbert dazzled in his first start despite losing in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs, and there was some shock when head coach Anthony Lynn said that if Taylor was healthy, he would still be the starter.
That didn’t end up happening, as Taylor was declared week-to-week. He has now missed two more games and his status for the next one is unknown. The argument’s been made by some that Taylor shouldn’t lose his starting job because of a freak accident like that. But after three Herbert games – even though they’ve lost all of them – there’s no going back to Taylor now. The cat is out of the bag, and Herbert has played too well.
After Three Justin Herbert Games, the Chargers Must Stick With Him
What Herbert’s Done
Despite coming up on the losing end in all three of his starts so far, Justin Herbert has impressed in every game he’s played. Against the Chiefs in Week 2, he went 22-for-33 with 311 yards, one touchdown and an interception, and one rushing touchdown. He wasn’t perfect, but he played very well given that it was his first game and it was against the defending Super Bowl champions.
In Week 3, he went 35-for-49 with 330 yards, and another touchdown and interception. That game ended up being lost due to a failed hook-and-lateral attempt on the final play. Still, Herbert continued to make throws that Tyrod Taylor wouldn’t have dreamed of.
This week, he went 20-for-25 with 290 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. That interception came at a bad time on their final drive as he threw it into a bad window, but his day was superb otherwise as he threw some long touchdown passes to a bunch of unknowns (Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton).
The Case Against Tyrod
In Tyrod Taylor’s one start, he was much more pedestrian. This showed in the fact that the Chargers only scored 16 points as he went 16-for-30 with 208 yards and no touchdowns (no turnovers, though). The primary difference is that they won, but it was an ugly win and they arguably got lucky too against a below-average team (Cincinnati Bengals). And furthermore, Taylor has more games in his career to go off of. Aside from his rushing ability and lack of turnovers, there’s been little special about him. We already knew what we’d get from him.
Meanwhile, Herbert has looked very solid in all three games despite losing. He’s been much more aggressive with the ball and it’s rarely cost him. Despite what the win-loss column shows, the Chargers have a better chance to win with Herbert at quarterback than with Taylor.
Why Is This Even a Debate?
Frankly, it’s baffling that we even have to talk about this. It’s understandable that Anthony Lynn might not want Taylor to lose his starting job because of a freak accident. But he hasn’t been able to play, and while Herbert’s been out there, he has played way better. The offense would be somewhat neutered without Herbert’s more big-play passes. As stated earlier, the cat is out of the bag. There is no denying this is very unfortunate for Taylor, but you can’t go back at this point.
What other reasons could there be for sticking with Taylor? Sure, he rarely turns the ball over. But he doesn’t make the big plays either with his arm. He might not lose you the game by giving the ball away, but he will very rarely have the kind of games Herbert has. And that’s not going to work when the defense is giving up points like they were against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – he’s not the kind of quarterback that can play from behind. Taylor can make plays with his legs, but Herbert can be mobile himself too.
Is it because Taylor won and Herbert hasn’t yet? That’s not a reliable distinction here. The Chargers haven’t really lost their games because of Herbert (unless you count the game-ending interception against the Buccaneers), but they won their one game despite Taylor rather than because of him.
We also know that Lynn and Tyrod Taylor were already together back when they were with the Buffalo Bills; and it seems that Lynn likes Taylor’s style of play better as it fits better with his apparently ideal run-first offense. Which is all well and good, but this isn’t a good hill to die on when virtually all reason states to start the other guy. If Lynn insists on riding with Taylor when he’s available and it fails, this could cost him his job.
Last Word on Justin Herbert and Tyrod Taylor
After Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, Lynn stated that he couldn’t yet answer who the starter would be going forward. Of course, that depends in part on whether Taylor is even available for Week 5. But again, this shouldn’t even really be a question. Herbert has proven he’s ready, and we’ve already seen Taylor’s ceiling – which is well below Herbert’s at this stage.
The fact that Lynn’s less adamant on the issue now is admittedly a little encouraging. It would not be the first time that a coach was noncommittal in the press conference only to announce during the week that the starter is the guy you expected. But the point still remains. Justin Herbert has to be the guy now, and there’s no going back to Tyrod Taylor.
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