For the past two games, the Los Angeles Chargers have had to rely on rookie signal caller and Oregon Duck alumnus Justin Herbert to lead their offense. Although the 22-year-old hasn’t found his first victory in his young NFL career, the amount of promise that Herbert has exhibited shows that he can be the best quarterback to come from Eugene in the past couple decades.
Two weeks ago, kickoff was moments away when the Chargers found out that veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor was unable to play, due to what the sports world found out later was a punctured lung he sustained while being given an injection by a team doctor.
Herbert, asked to step in against the reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs, had an impressive NFL debut. Taking the Chiefs into overtime, Herbert threw for over 300 yards with just one interception. The Chiefs came away the victors after kicking a field goal in overtime to win 23-20.
Herbert impressed some notable NFL alumni. Tony Romo, who played over a decade for the Dallas Cowboys, was effusive in his praise for Herbert.
“This kid has made great decision after great decision and really just two balls were barely high and this is as good of a start as I’ve seen in some time,” Romo, a TV analyst, said during the broadcast of the Chargers-Chiefs game. “I’m telling you, this kid is for real. He’s special.”
This past Sunday, the Chargers played the Carolina Panthers. Although they were unable to gain a victory, Herbert completed more than 70% of his passes and again surpassed the 300-yard mark. He joins Kyler Murray and Cam Newton as the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in their first two career starts.
How will Justin Herbert’s career trajectory go? I don’t have a crystal ball. Herbert is still in search of his first victory, slated to face Tom Brady, Drew Brees and their respective teams in the coming weeks. And Herbert hasn’t secured the starting role when Taylor returns.
What is certain is that Herbert’s potential is immensely high. Although it is too early to put him in the same conversation with the likes of former Ducks Dan Fouts and Norm Van Brocklin, both Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Herbert looks capable of surpassing the NFL achievements of Oregon stars Joey Harrington and Marcus Mariota.
Harrington, who was the Ducks signal caller at the turn of the century, played for four teams in his 7-year NFL career. When he was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the third overall pick in 2002, he was seen to be a savior. But Harrington struggled to meet those high expectations. He threw more interceptions (85) than he did touchdowns (79).
Mariota caught the college football fandom by storm back in 2014 as he helped lead the Ducks to a 13-2 record, finishing number two in the college rankings with a Rose Bowl victory and Heisman Trophy. Going into the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota was a highly sought after commodity, and the Tennessee Titans picked him with the second pick overall.
Almost five years later, with Mariota showing signs of brilliance but also battling injuries, the Titans went with Ryan Tannehill and later traded Mariota, who is now backing up Derek Carr in Las Vegas.
Although Herbert’s career has barely begun, he has great potential to eclipse the NFL careers of other fellow Oregon alumni. The more chances Herbert has to throw to talented receivers such as Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen, the better he’s likely to get.
I think Herbert will leave his mark on the NFL and become the Oregon Duck with the most productive career as a quarterback so far in the 21st century.