Justin Herbert is entering his second professional season with his second head coach and offensive coordinator, and while there will be an inherent challenge of learning a new offense, the new men in charge of it are ready to custom fit it to Herbert's skill set.
New Chargers OC Joe Lombardi spoke with reporters for the first time since he was hired to run Los Angeles' offense, and he made the aforementioned point very clear. Herbert is the center of the Chargers' future.
"I think we're going to tell him that we're going to build it around him," Lombardi said of Herbert on Monday. "As we start this process, let's look at what he was most comfortable with last year and in his time at Oregon, and what he has had the most success with. Starting with those building blocks, here's a series of plays that you already know that you can find a completion because you know exactly where to go with the football. Just give him that comfort level at the start, knowing that he's starting with what he has been successful at."
Tailoring a new offense to fit a quarterback's strengths is simply the application of common sense, but at one point, Herbert will be tasked with digesting the entire system. The quarterback is known for his smarts, which should make the process easier and allow him to resume his incredibly promising career on the right foot.
Herbert remains so exciting because of what he was in 2020. The former Oregon star wasn't just a good rookie quarterback, he was an excellent quarterback in general, finishing sixth in passing yards, 10th in touchdown passes (31), 12th in passer rating (98.3) and landing among the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford in total interceptions (Herbert had just 10). Only Allen and Roethlisberger threw more touchdowns with as many interceptions.
"He has a skillset that is elite," Lombardi said. "It appears that there's nothing that he can't do. He has an incredibly strong arm, good accuracy and he is very athletic. It sounds like he is a really smart guy that is a good leader. He just checks all of the boxes. The sky's the limit with a player like that."
It will be a few months before Lombardi can work closely with Herbert, but he's likely already compiling a playbook to send to the quarterback to start studying this offseason. Lombardi mentioned new head coach Brandon Staley's desire to play an up-tempo style of offense, something that should be an easy fit with Herbert thanks to his Oregon days. Lombardi will also be in charge of a unit filled with playmakers ready to put plenty of points on the board in Los Angeles.
"Like I said before, (general manager) Tom Telesco has really put together a lot of good pieces for this offense. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone just consistently get separation like Keenan Allen," Lombardi said. "Then, having another receiver like Mike (Williams) on other side of him. I know that (Austin) Ekeler has some of the skillset that I'm used to seeing in New Orleans with (former Saints running backs) Reggie (Bush) or Darren Sproles, or A.K. (Alvin Kamara). That's exciting, to have someone with that skillset. It's very exciting to come in knowing that those pieces are in place and that we have a good chance to hit the ground running."
Lombardi will be at the forefront of Herbert's development moving forward. Based on what he said Tuesday, he'll aim to make his offense fit Herbert as naturally as possible, which promises to provide more stellar play at the position for a Chargers team looking to turn things around in their first season under Staley.