Below are three takeaways from Justin Herbert's end of season press conference as he looked back at what he's accomplished in year two of his NFL career and what he looks to improve in the offseason.
'We never quit'
Throughout the 2021 season quarterback Justin Herbert lived up to his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign first season in the NFL and then some. In his second season on the Bolts, Herbert broke records set by Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Dan Marino and Chargers legend Dan Fouts. Herbert also passed former Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers for the most touchdowns in a single season in franchise history in the Bolts' Week 17 game against the Denver Broncos. With each record Herbert broke, No. 10 always put the focus on his teammates and coaching staff that helped get him there.
On Monday, Herbert had a chance to speak to members of the media to look back at his historic sophomore season. While the season ended after Week 18, Herbert talked about the fight the Bolts showed throughout the season and especially in that final game when they rallied back against the Las Vegas Raiders to force overtime in the season finale with the odds stacked against them.
"We never quit," Herbert said. "That offense that went out there, we were in the huddle together. We believed in each other. Like we have all year, we believed that we still could have won that game. It took all three phases. Unfortunately, we fell short. That's a tough part about the NFL. I'm proud of the way that those guys battled."
The Bolts faced countless close games this season with many games coming down to the final drive to decide the winner. Herbert talked about the importance of playing in late season games with playoff implications, but also how every game on the schedule is a challenge no matter the opponent.
"Every game is super important," Herbert said. "There are games that we could have looked back at this year and said, 'We could have won those.' We wouldn't have been put into a position of having to win a game to get into the playoffs, I think that's the tough part about the NFL because there are 32 really good football teams, there are 32 really good coaches out there that are getting their guys ready to play. It's up to us to be better and to go out there and have a great offseason and answer all these questions and to keep continuing to get better and to work hard and do all these things, so that when next season does come around, that we're ready to go."
Finding comfort in the system
While at the University of Oregon, Herbert played for three different head coaches in his four years in college. Herbert now heads into his third NFL season with continuity, a second season under head coach Brandon Staley and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system.
Herbert talked about the value of heading into the offseason and his third year in the NFL with the same coaching staff.
"I think we'll be able to build off of all the things that we did this season," Herbert said. "There were some really good things and there were some not-so-great things. It's up to us to build off of those good things and correct those mistakes. To have a full year of film to look at and to get better from that, we have this year-long of work that we're able to analyze and go over this offseason, heading into next year, where we're more comfortable with the offense. I think that stuff will only help us."
Despite having a career season throwing for just over 5,000 passing yards, enough for the second-most passing yards in the NFL this season, Herbert explained that he still has a lot of room to grow when it comes to finding full comfort in this new system.
"I still think that's something that we have to work on," he said. "It's Year 1 of that system, so there are going to be mistakes, there are going to be errors, it's all about getting better. As close as we were, it is Year 1. There are a lot of things that we need to fix and get better at."
Herbert also talked about what area of his game he was able to improve the most this season working with his teammates and members of the Bolts coaching staff.
"I thought footwork was one of those things that we really worked hard on this offseason and got better at," he said. "[Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Shane Day, [QB] Easton Stick, [Offensive Quality Control] Chandler Whitmer, that quarterback room, we put a lot of work into that. I felt more comfortable in the pocket, finding check-downs and extending plays. Along those lines and just continuing to work on that because you can always get better at it."
Focus on year three
As Herbert turns the page on year two in the NFL and focuses on building his offseason program heading into year three, he reflected on that sophomore season and talked about his biggest takeaway.
"A lot of growth," he said. "I thought we got a lot better as a team. Unfortunately, we fell short; we didn't make playoffs. That's the ultimate goal of this league, of this organization. For us, it's going to be an important offseason of working together, going into Year 2 with [Head] Coach [Brandon] Staley and [Offensive Coordinator] Joe Lombardi and this whole organization because I know that we have the talent, it's just all about going out there and executing."
When Staley took the Chargers job, he and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi made sure to construct an offense around the talents of Herbert and made sure they didn't hold back for the second-year pro.
But as he trends into year three, Herbert noted how year two will play a role in getting ready for the 2022 season.
"It is Year 1 [in the Staley/Lombardi scheme,] and it's an awfully tough offense to learn," he said. "We felt like we did our best. There's always still so much room for improvement. That's one of those things that we're going to have to address this offseason, watching all this film from this past year and getting better and continuing to learn about all the progressions, about all the protections, because there's so much. When we get that figured out, I think we'll be able to play some pretty good football."
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