The Los Angeles Chargers stunned the rest of the NFL when they took the field Sunday with rookie Justin Herbert as their unannounced starting quarterback. But coach Anthony Lynn wasted no time following L.A.’s overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs declaring veteran Tyrod Taylor as the team’s QB1 moving forward, saying Taylor will keep the job he held in Week 1 as long as he’s “100 percent ready to go” after a sudden and mysterious chest injury apparently led to his absence against Kansas City.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Taylor is “week-to-week” with the chest injury that kept him out of Sunday’s game. Taylor was sent to the hospital for further testing and was discharged late Sunday night, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
We know by now that Lynn is fond of Taylor, because of the duo’s shared history and Taylor’s presence as a mentor for the 22-year-old Herbert. But if the coach isn’t just giving some lip service to a longtime friend — if he’s actually serious that Taylor will return as L.A.’s signal-caller when available — well, someone should convince him otherwise. Because there’s little reason, after Herbert’s mostly inspiring debut in Week 2, that anyone other than the Chargers’ top draft pick should be under center going forward.
Many pundits cast Herbert as one of the least NFL-ready of this year’s top rookie QBs, but against a Chiefs defense that kept Deshaun Watson under wraps in Week 1 and — oh, by the way — helped K.C. win the last Super Bowl, the Oregon product went 22 of 33 for 311 yards, led L.A. to within four points of upsetting the reigning champs and, most importantly, looked good doing it. One surprise start does not make Herbert the next coming of Aaron Rodgers, but it sure as heck made it clear that the rookie deserves the No. 1 job.
But wouldn’t turning the keys over to such a green QB torpedo the Chargers’ chances of reaching the playoffs, especially with a roster built to compete sooner rather than later? To that, we ask: What in the world makes turning the keys back to Taylor any better? At this point in Taylor’s career, we know what he is: a serviceable but replaceable starter with an occasionally nice deep ball — a stopgap with conservative tendencies and, surprisingly, some underrated accuracy issues.
Taylor’s Week 1 stat line — 16 of 30 for 208 yards — was not an anomaly but a picture of what Chargers fans should expect if he returns in 2020. He hasn’t been a full-time QB1 since 2017, and even then, when he went 8-6 in 14 starts with the Buffalo Bills, Taylor somehow managed only 14 TD passes and just over 185 yards per game. Yes, he may have more reps than Herbert, but his reps haven’t been that impressive for years. If the argument is to capitalize on L.A.’s current lineup power, then it should lean toward the high-risk, high-upside talent of Herbert rather than the medium-risk, low-upside reputation of Taylor.
Former NFL QB Mark Sanchez told CBS Sports in the lead-up to the draft that Herbert has “all the physical tools,” that the ball comes out of his hands “like a JUGS machine” and that he “speaks the language” of football as well as anyone. It took less than four quarters of action to get a taste of some of those traits on Sunday. If you’re the Chargers, sitting at 1-1 in a tough but open-ended division (see: Drew Lock injury), in a conference that’ll feature one additional wild-card team this year, keeping the ball in Herbert’s hands makes sense not only for the long term — evaluating his strengths and weaknesses as the guy — but for the immediate run as well.