It’s deja vu (once again) for Tyrod Taylor and this time courtesy of Justin Herbert.
Let’s flashback to 2018. The veteran quarterback was under center for the Cleveland Browns, ready to turn that franchise around after three years as Buffalo’s starter. Unfortunately, it was cut short. In week three against the New York Jets, Taylor left the game early on with a head injury.
Trotting onto the field to make his rookie debut was 2018 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall Draft pick Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield finished the game completing 17-of-23 passes for 201 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. More importantly, Cleveland won, 21-17. Taylor’s time as Cleveland’s starter was done.
Three years later, Taylor’s story is re-writing itself.
The Los Angeles Chargers gave Taylor the fresh start he was looking for and to hopefully in return get some of that quarterback play that Taylor displayed in Buffalo resulting in a Pro Bowl selection in 2015.
Week one was a struggle on the road at the Cincinnati Bengals: Taylor recorded 16-for-30 completions for 208 yards and zero touchdowns against a mediocre Bengals defense. Los Angeles did get the win, 16-13. After the game, Oregon football fans were already calling for rookie quarterback Justin Herbert to take over the reigns.
In week two, Taylor was ruled out and sent to the hospital for chest pain before L.A. hosted the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. Seconds before kickoff, rookie backup quarterback and 2020 No. 6 overall draft pick Justin Herbert was named the starter.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Oregon head football coach Mario Crisotbal].
Here is how Herbert’s NFL debut faired out:
He also had two touchdowns - one on the ground and one through the air - and one interception. Herbert and the Chargers took Kansas City to overtime, but the Chiefs kicked a game-winning field goal to win 23-20.
First player since 1954 to throw and run for a TD in the first half of their NFL debut.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 20, 2020
Welcome to the league, Justin Herbert ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/L0PXfvF02R
The Taylor-led Chargers put up 362 yards of total offense against the Bengals in week one; the Herbert-led Chargers put up 479 yards with three fewer drives against the Chiefs in week two.
It’s not a question of “if” Herbert will be named the starter, but “when.” Is the offense better or more efficient with Herbert slinging the ball? Will the Chargers follow in the Browns’ lead and name their “quarterback of the future” the starter now?
Head coach Anthony Brown is reluctant to do that and confirmed Taylor, when healthy, is the starter after Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.
“If he’s 100 percent ready to go, he’s our starter. But I know that Justin can pick up the slack if he can’t.”
On Monday, Adam Schefter reported Taylor is considered day-to-day with his chest injury:
Chargers’ QB Tyrod Taylor is considered week to week with the chest injury that prevented him from playing Sunday, per source. So Chargers unsure of who their QB will be Sunday against Carolina.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 21, 2020
On Sunday, the Chargers will host the Carolina Panthers, a middle-of-the-pack defense that is allowing 228.0 passing yards and 127.5 rushing yards per game through two weeks of play.
Why rush to get Taylor, who is dealing with injury, back under center when Herbert has proven his capability to run the offense? Sure, he made some rookie mistakes, but Herbert also put up some impressive numbers against the reigning Super Bowl champs, defensive lineman Chris Jones in his face, and safety Tyrann Mathieu looming in the secondary.
Jason Reed of Fansided believes it would be asinine to go back to Taylor after Herbert’s debut:
“Ask yourself this: who do you feel more comfortable with on third and seven — Justin Herbert or Tyrod Taylor? To me, that answer is now Justin Herbert, 10 times out of 10…
“Sure, Tyrod Taylor might not throw that pick into double-coverage, but if the kid is ready then you have to play the kid. He is the future of the franchise after all. Get him in there, and if he really struggles that bad, go back to Tyrod.”
Struggle and adversity nearly always result in growth. That is something Herbert had to overcome at Oregon, when he led a 4-8 team in 2016 to a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl victory in 2020. Four years consisting of three head coaching changes and two different offensive coordinators.
So why not let the kid show you that same will and determination starting now?