In the last week, there has been a headline circling around that centers around two teams: the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The headline says that these were the only two teams that truly made a run at Tom Brady before the future Hall of Famer ultimately made his way down to Florida and won the Bucs a Super Bowl. We know what happened with the Chargers, they stuck around in the draft, got a break when Tua Tagovailoa went a spot before them and made their selection of the former Oregon Duck Justin Herbert.
The Bucs obviously came out a winner after year one, they are the team with a Lombardi Trophy. But it’s hard to paint the Chargers as the losers. Sure, they finished under .500 and they fired their head coach immediately after the season ended. But out of the four quarterbacks who were taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, only one truly turned heads and only one has the NFL Rookie of the Year award.
Yes, the Chargers may have lost out on Tom Brady and all the things that come along with that but we aren’t going to act like Los Angeles roster was nearly as good as Tampa’s coming into this season. And it is important to recognize that the Bucs are set up for maybe one more year of success while the Chargers could be legitimate Chiefs-esque contenders for the next 10 years with Herbert.
It has been impressive how quickly Kansas City has gone from a very average team to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and an AFC Championship game before that. Take Tom Brady out of the equation and the Chiefs could very well be sitting around with three rings in the last three years. This is the kind of blueprint that the Chargers should be taking note of.
When I look around the league, I see talented quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson who see a very limited window of opportunity to win before it is too late. It’s a mistake that Charges have to hope they don’t find themselves in. Herbert can win the big one right now and the Chargers should use this offseason to capitalize on it.
Keenan Allen isn’t going to be this good forever and Austin Ekler is an injury waiting to happen. The defense is talented beyond belief but injuries killed them this past season. They did take a step in the right direction in firing Anthony Lynn and bringing in Brandon Staley. He is a coach that produced the league’s best defense this past season and with all the talent on this LAt team, it is exciting to see what he may do with it. After all, defense wins championships, especially evident after the performance we saw last Sunday.
But let’s be real, the main guy who matters for Herbert is his offensive coordinator and I think the Chargers hit a massive home run with their hire. They brought in Joe Lombardi (recognize the name?) who coached Drew Brees as an offensive assistant coach and quarterbacks coach for the last seven years. He helped quarterback Drew Brees eclipse four 5,000-yard passing seasons and 338 passing touchdowns.
Now that Lombardi is on the squad, it seems like Herbet is eager to ask former Charger Drew Brees what he is all about.
“Drew is definitely one of those guys I plan to reach out to,” Herbert said, via the L.A. Times. “He’s been able to do it all.These guys have had so much success. If I didn’t ask them, that’s on me. It’s an opportunity for me to learn from them. I’ll definitely be reaching out. I’ve talked to a couple of them already.”
The next big step is going to be protecting Herbert. We saw how crucial that was for fellow first round pick Joe Burrow this season and we have seen it in the past with a guy like Andrew Luck, who retired mostly because he got knocked around way too much. Pro Football Focus ranked the Chargers offensive line dead last this season.
That is absolutely unacceptable. The Chargers are selecting 13th overall in this draft and offensive line has to be their main focus. The Bucs had the 14th overall pick in the last draft and took Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, who went on to be the highest rated player in the entire Super Bowl. He allowed just one sack of the precious Tom Brady in his rookie year. The draft should be an opportunity for LA to grab at least two lineman and maybe even approach others in free agency. Joe Thuney and Bradon Scherff are going to be available. Adding some veteran presence at the right price should be priority numero uno for this team and it is a great place to start.
Before we jump over to how they can improve on defense, let’s talk about some playmakers. The Chargers have a bunch of talented wide receivers in Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson but they could add a vetran to that mix and make Johnson and Guyton work for it. Their backfield is another area of concern due to the health of Austin Ekler. They do have Kalen Ballage, Justin Jackson, and Joshua Kelly but those guys were wildly inconsistent down the stretch when Ekler couldn’t go. It would be great if LA could go after a guy like Jamaal Williams who would be a nice complement to Ekler.
Finally, the most important piece on offense will be bringing back Hunter Henry. He was huge for Herbert when he was on the field and he is a free agent this season. Henry will command a nice little chunk of change and he deserves it. If they weren’t able to bring him back, calling about a guy like O.J. Howard would be interesting. He is a guy that was injured in week one this past season and the Bucs may be looking to move him to clear money off the books.
Finally, the defensive secondary needs some help. Getting Derwin James back helps, but the safety and cornerback position needs automatic updates. If they want to make a big splash they could go after one of two Broncos teammates Justin Simmons or Chris Harris. They also need to add some ammunition to the linebacker corps and potentially add a veteran lineman to help out a guy like Joey Bosa.
The Chargers are in a rare situation where they went from one franchise quarterback right into another. It’s something that the 49ers had the rare fortune of and the Packers had the rare fortune of too. It is critical that the Chargers don’t mess this up and that they capitalize on winning now before things slip away for them.