What must the Chargers do to ensure Justin Herbert's potential is not squandered by franchise like that of Drew Brees and Philip Rivers?

Drew Brees (L), Justin Herbert (C), Philip Rivers (R) of the Chargers
Drew Brees (L), Justin Herbert (C), Philip Rivers (R) of the Chargers

Has there ever been a franchise that has had the likes of Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and now Justin Herbert and failed to win a Super Bowl? For Chargers fans, it is not an imaginary scenario but something they must live with every day. They are one of the few franchises in the NFL that have never won a Super Bowl.

After their win against the Indianapolis Colts yesterday, they are now in the 2022 NFL playoffs and have a chance to break that curse. Given that their city rivals, the Los Angeles Rams, won the Super Bowl last season, if the Chargers were to get their hands on the Lombardi Trophy, that would be quite the story.

But before we start thinking about them eventually winning the big game, we must remember their previous failures, despite having some of the best throwing quarterbacks in the league.

Drew Brees took over from Doug Flutie in 2002 and was the starter for the next four seasons. In that period, they made it to the playoffs only once in 2004. They went one-and-out in the postseason as well. In the regular season, they had a top tier offense with 367.3 yards per game. However, their defense was also conceding 335 yards per game, which was in the bottom half of the league. The playoffs were a different thing, however, when they lost 17-20 to the New York Jets, with the offense failing to find a spark in the postseason.

Philip Rivers took over in 2006 and made four straight playoffs from then until 2009. In 2006, they were ranked first overall in points per game with an average of 30.8. But they lost 24-21 in the playoffs to the New England Patriots. The next season would see them reach the AFC Conference game and lose to the Patriots again. 2008 saw them lose in the divisional round to the Pittsburgh Steelers, before losing 17-14 to the New York Jets in 2009.

In each case, they kept giving up more than 300 yards on opposing offenses in the regular season. But in the playoffs, with the exception of 2008, when the defense gave up 35 points to the Steelers, they failed to score enough points in their losses, despite the defense limiting the opposition to less than 25 points in each case.

Philip Rivers made the playoffs twice more, once in 2013 and once in 2018. Both times, they won one game before losing their next one. The first loss was to the Denver Broncos 17-24 in 2013, before falling 41-28 to the New England Patriots at the same divisional stage in 2018. In both cases, again, the defense was always giving up more than 300 yards per game in the regular season.

How can the Chargers ensure that history does not repeat itself with Justin Herbert as it did with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers?

To recap, what went wrong for the Chargers when Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were having great seasons is that their defense has never been the best in the league. In the playoffs, they have also struggled many times to score sufficient points despite their passing yardage being near the top of the league.

The Chargers selected Justin Herbert with the 6th overall pick Thursday.They have used just 3 starting quarterbacks (Philip Rivers, Drew Brees & Doug Flutie) since the start of the 2001 season. That is the fewest in the NFL over that span.

Justin Herbert is in the same quandary today. The Los Angeles Chargers are near the top with a total yardage of 355 yards per game but fall to second-worst in the NFL when it comes to rushing yards, with 84.9 yards per game. Their defense is giving up 342.4 yards per game, which is also middling.

Therefore, for the Chargers not to repeat their mistakes, they need to find variety in the running game, so they are not overly dependent on passing when they face stronger defenses in the playoffs. They must also improve on the defensive end of the field. The Chargers have struggled because they have relied too heavily on their quarterbacks, such as Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and now Justin Herbert, who are all excellent passers.

2001 Doug Flutie/ Drew Brees2004 Philip Rivers2022 Justin HerbertChargers Fans have been blessed with elite QB play for over 20 years ⚡️🙏⚡️

They have had passing weapons, but they have rarely been complemented by a strong running game and elite defense. That is where they should invest now, lest Justin Herbert suffer the same disappointments as Philip Rivers and Drew Brees.

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Edited by SO
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