As you walk in to Radio Row at the LA Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles, the first thing you see is the Fan Duel stage that was home to "The Pat McAfee Show" the week leading up to Super Bowl LVI.
After his three hour show on Tuesday, the former All-Pro punter stepped off the stage to talk about the Chargers' 2021 season and what he's looking forward to in 2022.
First up were his thoughts on quarterback Justin Herbert's record-breaking second season in the NFL.
"I feel like what they've got cooking over there is beautiful. If I was Justin Herbert and I was what? 'Like 6'5, 6'6, handsome, long hair, absolute gunslinger,' seems like he has the perfect morals coming from a small town in Oregon which everybody mocked him for. I think I'd be pretty pumped to get back in there and maybe let everybody know that although the expectations were high last season, and we didn't reach it, this year we are going to go on a run."
In year two as the Chargers starting quarterback, Herbert broke the franchise record for most touchdown passes, completions and passing yards for a single season. McAfee also talked about Herbert's most recent accolade, the 2022 Pro Bowl MVP. McAfee talked about what it means for Herbert to receive that award and one thing about Herbert that has intrigued him the most this season.
"I mean if you are not going to win the Super Bowl, you might as well be the MVP of the Pro Bowl winning over your peers that are at an elite level. I think the thing about Justin Herbert that has been so fantastic is he seems to be the same dude the entire time, he'll be in the middle of making a massive play you'll see celebration when he gets on the sideline. I know you guys try to get him mic'd up all the time and he doesn't necessarily love it, but it seems like he's very consistent. "
McAfee went into his thoughts on Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and his first impressions on the Bolts first year head coach. Throughout the season, McAfee had Herbert, Staley and running back Austin Ekeler on the show, McAfee explained what stood out about Staley in his time talking with him.
"It feels like his natural thought, the way his brain goes is in the coaching fashion. So, every thought is like 'oh this isn't adversity this is an opportunity,' all those traits that you'd hope your coach would have it feels like he has them just looking from the outside in. he's going to have to win games, he knows that, that's what the NFL is, but I absolutely love his energy, his electricity and I'm excited to see him continue to grow into his own mold of a head coach."
McAfee went into detail about the leadership that Staley brings to the Bolts and the excitement that comes along with having a quarterback and head coach duo like Staley and Herbert teamed up
"I think the leadership is good and also on the defensive side you guys got dogs over there as well. It feels like at the high level and all the proper positions you guys have absolute studs. I think if I'm a Chargers fan I'm very excited…It feels like at all the right positions you guys got absolute studs and it seems like the future is very bright for the Chargers, but once again you have to win before anybody will give you any of the respect and I think that is something that both Herb, Staley and all the dudes that are on the back end of that Chargers defense understand as well."
One of the Chargers identities from the 2021 season was their willingness and ability to convert on fourth downs. Whether it was 4th-and-goal or 4th-and-1 in their own territory, Staley made it know that if the odds were in their favor that they would go for it. McAfee gave his thoughts on the coaching style that Staley brought to the Chargers in 2021 and why the Bolts are 'electrifying to watch."
"I like the fact that he is very aggressive, I like the fact that he's not scared and doesn't shy away from it at all. He seems to be very transparent in all of his decision which I think every fan can like. It's just like a fake punt or just like any decision, hindsight is always the winner. So, with all of his decisions if he goes for it instead of kicking a field goal and it works out he's a genius. If for whatever reason somebody has a missed assignment or the execution isn't proper, somebody makes an insane play and it doesn't work out, he's an idiot. I love the fact that he's been very truthful, honest and genuine throughout the entire process and I feel like that's who he is all the way to a fault and I think that's why he's going to be a great head coach. That's why it's electrifying to watch the Chargers because you have no idea what's going to happen in certain situations in which it's been done the same way for 101 years and he's willing to role the dice, I have nothing but respect for him."
McAfee spent his entire career (2009-2016) as a punter for the Indianapolis Colts, earning two Pro Bowl selections and was named a First Team AP All-Pro in 2014. McAfee was selected by the Colts in the 2009 NFL draft when Chargers general manager Tom Telesco was working for the Colts as director of player personnel. McAfee talked about how a bowl game in North Carolina and Telesco's support led to his career in the NFL.
"Tom Telesco is the reason why I ended up in the NFL, he actually scouted me at the Meineke Car Care Bowl in North Carolina. Pregame I was kicking around with my friends, Tom Telesco saw and told [Indianapolis Colts former general manager and team president] Bill Polian that he thought I could potentially be an NFL punter. He was the only person that thought I could be an NFL punter, so I owe my entire career to Tom Telesco thinking that I could figure out how to punt."
McAfee talked about what it has been like to see Telesco rise up the ranks in the NFL and what he appreciated the most about Telesco over the years the two have know each other.
"He's always been so generous and kind to me, very nice to me, he's offered me plenty of opportunity obviously in the league, but I don't think he has changed whenever he is given out right power which is very, very cool to see. I think he has obviously come through it in the long way under Bill Polian's guidance and building rosters and has all the experience. Now watching him guide his own ship has been a lot of fun, it doesn't appear as if he's changed which is what I appreciate the most."
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