The Chargers Are Putting Justin Herbert’s Super Bowl Dreams in the Hands of a Mad Genius Who Never Played College Football

The Los Angeles Chargers are in trouble if Justin Herbert ever throws a meaningful pass to Alex Stern.

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing who Stern, a University of Virginia graduate, is or even what position he plays. Just know that he is someone who could prove instrumental in the Chargers becoming a perennial playoff contender once again. However, don’t expect to see Stern on the field or the sidelines anytime soon.

The Chargers hired Alex Stern as a data analyst

The Chargers are allocating as many resources as possible to finally reach a Super Bowl for the first time in over 25 years.

A year after drafting Herbert with the sixth overall pick, the Chargers are adding another young face to the organization. The team recently hired Stern, who spent the 2020 season as an analytics intern on Virginia’s football team, as a data analyst.

Stern participated at the Big Data Bowl — an NFL-sponsored analytics competition — in February 2020. His performance there made him one of six finalists who traveled to that year’s NFL Combine, where he presented his work on offensive linemen and their salaries to 31 of the league’s 32 teams.

While at UVA, Stern used analytics to scout and find talent through the transfer portal. It is not yet known if he will have similar duties in the NFL when scouting free agents and players on practice squads.

Stern’s knowledge and techniques could prove significant for Justin Herbert and his teammates

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert in 2021.
The Los Angeles Chargers have hired Alex Stern, a young and brilliant data analyst, to help Justin Herbert and teammates finally win a Super Bowl | John McCoy/Getty Images

Even in 2021, it is incredibly easy to think of Moneyball when analytics and sabermetrics are mentioned or shown on a broadcast.

Professional sports teams have embraced those advanced stats over the last decade, and the Chargers clearly see enough in Stern to welcome him on board. He has a mind for the business side of football and will bring a much different perspective to the table than those with traditional backgrounds.

His knowledge on the offensive line could prove especially insightful if the Chargers hope to keep Herbert happy and healthy. In a 2020 interview with UVA Today, Stern explained how he wrote an algorithm that found how much space each offensive lineman created for the running back on each play.

“For example, just because your left tackle creates a bunch of space in front of the running back, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Maybe it was a run to the outer left, the defenders were spread out (not anticipating a run from the offense), and they were facing the worst rushing defense in the NFL. You’d expect him to create space in that situation.”

Alex Stern

The days of grading offensive linemen primarily on penalties and sacks allowed are a thing of the past. If the Chargers have one of the league’s top offensive lines in 2021, expect Stern to get some of the praise behind the scenes.

Herbert and the Chargers have big dreams for 2021

Herbert and the Chargers’ potential path to greatness started with Tyrod Taylor’s freak injury before a Week 2 kickoff against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

After winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Herbert is back for more in 2021. The Chargers are his team and have already emerged as a trendy postseason pick in a competitive AFC.

Asking Herbert to win the AFC West Division over Mahomes and the Chiefs is likely too much right now. The Chiefs have not only arguably the sport’s best quarterback (Mahomes) and tight end (Travis Kelce), but they revamped their offensive line to keep Mahomes healthy.

However, don’t be surprised to see Herbert and the Chargers make a deep playoff run as a wild card team this season. With Herbert’s arm and Stern’s input, this is a team that could quickly become must-see TV each week.

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