As a lifelong Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders fan, this is a painful admission, considering what it could mean for the future of the AFC West division. Honestly, this is brutal.
The newly dubbed Los Angeles Chargers—which is still hard to grasp because the Raiders should be back in L.A.—have the quarterback of the future. Justin Herbert is the real deal, and he continues to prove that fact year in and year out during his time as Philip Rivers' successor under center.
Most teams in the NFL find it incredibly difficult to replace a legend with a player that can follow in their footsteps or surpass them. Despite being a formidable quarterback who'll likely be in the Hall of Fame, Rivers was never able to win a Super Bowl title, let alone get to the big game.
Old Man Rivers
During his 16 years as the leader under center for the Chargers, Rivers made the once San Diego-based team relevant and a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the AFC. Adding LT into the mix only made the team more dominant offensively, with many believing it was only a matter of time before they'd be Super Bowl bound.
Unfortunately, Rivers and company failed to live up to expectations despite having some successful seasons throughout his stint with the team. This ultimately led to an over-the-hill Rivers contemplating retirement or trying his luck elsewhere. He eventually landed with the Indianapolis Colts before retiring after the 2020 NFL season.
This was a blessing in disguise for the Chargers as they were able to get their hands on one of the most promising young quarterbacks since the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, which turned out to be equally painful for Raiders fans like myself.
The Real Deal
Although Herbert wasn't a household name, it didn't take long before the Oregon product started to make headlines. Herbert may have led his team to a forgettable 6-9 record in his rookie season after taking over for Rivers, but he left quite an impression as possibly the next great young quarterback in the league.
Herbert threw for 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions in his rookie campaign while sporting a completion percentage of 66.6. Incredible numbers for a first-year quarterback, and he only went on to improve them across the board a year later.
In his sophomore campaign, Herbert proved his doubters wrong by throwing for seven more touchdowns (38) and nearly seven hundred more yards (5,014) while improving the team's record to 9-8. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, and thankfully for the Silver and Black, Herbert could not get the best of the Raiders in the final game of the season, resulting in Las Vegas heading to the postseason and the Los Angeles transplants being sent packing.
Despite being unable to make the postseason due to the exceptional play of Derek Carr and Maxx Crosby, the Chargers showed the future is bright in Los Angeles with Hebert at the helm.
As if seeing Mahomes' accession to superstar status wasn't impressive enough after he took over for Alex Smith in Kansas City, Herbert seems to be taking a similar route, with a team that appears ready to compete now rather than later.
Season three will be the true indicator of Herbert's potential, with the team improving on both sides of the football during the offseason. The Chargers are getting a lot of buzz for their offseason moves, and Herbert's potential, which kills me to say, is about as high as any quarterback that has come into the league.