NFL

Chargers Just Saved Justin Herbert’s Career With a Genius Hire

If you just looked at Justin Herbert’s physical profile, there’s no doubt he could have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Unfortunately, his game tape reveals a player who didn’t always take advantage of his immense tools. Despite concerns about his ability to become a franchise quarterback, the Los Angeles Chargers selected the former Oregon star right after the Miami Dolphins took Tua Tagovaoila with the No. 5 pick. While there’s no denying Herbert’s upside, he also carries tremendous risk.

Like Josh Allen in Buffalo, the first-round QB has some of the same fatal flaws that could make him the next NFL draft bust. However, the Chargers managed to save Justin Herbert’s career before it even began this week by making a genius coaching hire. And if the Chargers’ new quarterback coach can work his magic as he did with Andrew Luck, Justin Herbert could become a Pro Bowler sooner than later.

Justin Herbert has noticeable holes in his game

Create a quarterback in Madden and you’d probably end up with Justin Herbert. Tipping the scales at 6-foot-6, 237 pounds with elite athleticism and a rocket right arm, he checks all the boxes from an attribute standpoint. Yet, his Oregon career didn’t measure up to his immense potential. Herbert did surpass 3,000 passing yards in his final two seasons with the Ducks, but he faltered in primetime matchups. Last season, he threw two interceptions and completed just 55.6 percent of his passes in a 31-28 loss to Arizona State. In a one-point win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Herbert threw another pick and totaled just 138 passing yards. He did show off his wheels with three rushing scores.

During the pre-draft process, Herbert impressed with a strong combine showing. He ran a blazing 4.68 40-yard dash and posted eye-popping marks in the vertical jump (35.5 inches) and broad jump (123 inches). However, that didn’t exactly make up for some of his on-field shortcomings. Lance Zierlien of NFL.com outlined Herbert’s strengths and weaknesses in his scouting report:

He’s confident attacking downfield, but touch throws evade him and may have created tentativeness with certain short and intermediate throws. Ball placement requires additional emphasis, but upgrading to NFL skill talent could help him bloom. Herbert has a high ceiling and is the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft, but he doesn’t have as many “wow” plays as expected for someone with his traits, experience and potential.”

In need of a new face of the franchise with Philip Rivers moving on to the Indianapolis Colts, the Chargers still took Justin Herbert with the sixth pick.

Chargers make Pep Hamilton QB coach

Talent matters. So does good coaching. Just look at how Sean McVay transformed Jared Goff from a potential draft bust into a Pro Bowler. Knowing full well that Herbert has holes in his game, the Chargers took a huge step to give their new QB1 a chance to live up to his potential. On Wednesday, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reported that Los Angeles will hire Pep Hamilton to serve as QB coach.

To call this a career-altering move would be an understatement. While haters knock Hamilton for his job-hopping resume, his track record of developing quarterbacks should give Chargers fans optimism. Before he took over the XFL’s DC Defenders, the veteran coach had spent years at high-level programs in both the NFL and college. A longtime QB coach, Hamilton got his shot to run an offense in 2011 when Stanford promoted him from WR coach to offensive coordinator/QB coach. His quarterback just so happened to be Andrew Luck.

In his first year calling plays, Hamilton and Luck made magic. Stanford set a school-record with 561 points (43.15 points per game). Luck won a boatload of individual awards and became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

Herbert’s career hinges on good coaching

Hamilton spent another year at Stanford before the Colts hired him to once again serve as Luck’s offensive coordinator. While there’s no doubt that Luck’s innate gifts played a major role in his early NFL success, the fact remains that Hamilton helped the Colts improve on offense. After ranking 18th in points in Luck’s rookie season, Indianapolis jumped to 14th in the first year with Hamilton on board. In 2014, the Colts finished sixth in scoring and third in yards before they controversially fired Hamilton in the middle of the 2015 season.

Despite his unceremonious NFL exit, Hamilton’s impressive resume should be a welcomed sign for Justin Herbert and Chargers fans. The rookie QB walks into an offense loaded with talented weapons. However, with clear weaknesses to address, getting Hamilton as essentially his personal tutor should give the gifted signal-caller a chance to reach his ceiling. The Chargers are all-in on Justin Herbert, and by hiring Pep Hamilton, they just saved their rookie quarterback from turning into a first-round flameout.