The year 2020 has already been a resounding success for the Los Angeles Chargers, regardless of where their final place will be in the standings. Justin Herbert, unexpectedly forced into action after a medical blunder sidelined Tyrod Taylor, is a certified stud. The No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft has the makings of a true Quarterback Of The Future, entirely capable of becoming the face of the franchise in short order and, more importantly, able to put up the numbers required to win football games en masse.
The fact that the Chargers found him the year after longtime signal-caller Philip Rivers left is quite a stroke of luck. However, despite the natural ability that Herbert clearly has, the team has struggled to win. The Chargers currently sit at 2-5 on the season, but in each contest Herbert has started, the Chargers have been in the game. There has been no blowout with Herbert under center, no moment where this Los Angeles team felt like it was completely outclassed with no hope for a victory. That's all you can really ask for from a rookie quarterback, especially one that draft pundits labeled as a bit of a project.
The problem is that the Chargers could be 5-2 or 4-3. There's a strong argument to be made that they should be at least above .500 right now. Because Herbert and his cannon arm have given the Chargers juicy leads in three of the last four games that they then wasted. They were up 28-14 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4 before ultimately losing 38-31. But they were not the first, nor will they be the last, to squander a lead to Tom Brady. Los Angeles should have won that game, but Brady is Brady and the Bucs are one of the best teams in the NFL.
It gets worse, though. The Chargers were up 20-3 over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome before blowing that lead and losing 30-27 in overtime. The next week, they went up 16-0 on the Jacksonville Jaguars before letting Gardner Minshew, who has since been benched, lead a raging comeback. Herbert ultimately came away with his first win as a pro with the 39-29 win, but it was far closer than it should have been.
That brings us to this past Sunday, a 31-30 loss to the Denver Broncos. As you might be able to predict at this point, the Chargers held a substantial lead, then blew it. Again. They were winning 24-3 before Drew Lock brought Denver back. For the third time in four weeks, the Chargers wasted a multi-touchdown lead and lost.
This falls entirely upon the shoulders of head coach Anthony Lynn. Herbert was not perfect down the stretch of those losses, but he did more than enough to put his team into a position to win. Nobody else delivered, and especially not the coaching staff. Lynn's play calling is puzzling on good days and downright atrocious on bad ones. The Saints game, in particular, stands out. Herbert was in the midst of shredding the secondary when the Chargers went up by 17. Then, Lynn insisted on running the ball over and over until Herbert was forced to throw it to keep the team in the game. It's a trend that continued over the next few weeks. There's something to be said about grinding out the clock and ensuring Herbert can't make any back-breaking mistakes, but we all remember the definition of insanity.
Herbert's outstanding start to his NFL career has to be at least partially attributed to Lynn and the rest of the coaching staff. Just how much is forever unknown to all of us who can't sit in on their weekly meetings. But for all the good Lynn has done for the young quarterback, his other decisions are impacting winning football. The Chargers regularly have the worst luck in the NFL, both injury and otherwise, but one can only attribute losses to bad luck so many times.
The franchise has found its man, the quarterback to lead them into another era of hope and excitement. Lynn played a part in that and has continued to help Herbert excel in his first season. But to take the next step, the Chargers need to find the right man to pair him with. Lynn is not that. They won't try to find the right coach now, but they'll be faced with that decision sooner rather than later. If they're smart, they'll recognize that Lynn needs to go if Herbert is to rack up wins like he is touchdowns.