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Tyrod Taylor focused on playing quarterback for the Chargers, not Justin Herbert

Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor prepares to make a pass during a game last season.
Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor says he knew before the draft the team would select a quarterback.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Like everyone else, Tyrod Taylor wasn’t surprised in April when the Chargers drafted Justin Herbert at No. 6 overall.

The difference for Taylor is that the addition of the former Oregon standout could directly impact his future.

“I figured that the Chargers would take a quarterback,” Taylor said Friday. “But that never necessarily changed my mind-set or attack toward the year. I was drafted in the sixth round [in 2011] and, even that day I got drafted, I always had the mind-set to prepare like a starter.”

In his first public comments since the draft, Taylor said he is more concerned about readying for the season than mentoring Herbert, before adding that there has been ample dialogue between the two.

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Entering his 10th season, Taylor is expected to be the Week 1 starter, while Herbert is being groomed to eventually take over as their next franchise quarterback.

“It’s not that anyone is hiding information,” Taylor said. “It’s open conversation. … My main focus is to go out and prepare myself for the season. But, at the same time, I’m not hiding any information. It’s an open conversation amongst all of us.”

Taylor, who turned 31 this week, has started 46 games in his career but none since Week 3 of the 2018 season.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn resorted to taking his players’ cleats in an attempt to tone down the intensity during the team’s first day of conditioning.

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That day, playing for Cleveland, he struggled against the New York Jets before suffering a concussion.

He was replaced by then-rookie Baker Mayfield, who has started every Browns game since then.

Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, joining a Cleveland team that, in need of a quarterback, had traded for Taylor.

Two years later, Taylor finds himself in a similar situation, the veteran again holding a prized starting spot in front of a highly touted prospect expected to eventually assume the job.

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“I’ve been a firm believer in just control what you can,” Taylor said. “A lot of things that happened in Cleveland was out of my control. But that never changed my attitude toward what I can do [or] toward the team.”

The Chargers publicly have offered no timetable regarding Herbert. This is a team that is built to compete now, the expectation is that Taylor will hold the job as long as he and the Chargers have success.

With a limited offseason and no preseason games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Herbert figures to need more time to learn the offense and adjust to the speed of the NFL.

Taylor can provide that time while giving the Chargers a veteran with a history of taking care the ball and an ability — unlike the last 14 seasons with Philip Rivers starting — to use his legs to extend plays.

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Chargers coach Anthony Lynn worked with Taylor in Buffalo and knows his game well. Throughout this offseason, Lynn repeatedly has praised Taylor’s skills and leadership.

“He’s probably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game,” Lynn said. “I don’t mind guys having that underdog [mentality] and that chip on their shoulder. … I hope he does.”

Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor runs with the ball.
Will Tyrod Taylor be able to hold onto the Chargers’ starting quarterback job for the entire season?
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Taylor signed a two-year contract with the Chargers in March 2019. He was expected to serve solely as the backup to Rivers, who was coming off a solid season.

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But Rivers unraveled last fall when he had 20 passes intercepted behind an offensive line beset by injuries and a lack of experience. The Chargers finished 5-11.

The team and Rivers decided in February to part ways, opening the way for Taylor to take over. Rivers is now the starter in Indianapolis.

“I have nothing but respect for Philip,” Taylor said. “I watched him and always admired him before I got here and then got a chance to work with him. More admiration built in the past year.”

With Taylor, the Chargers’ offense figures to feature much more action outside the pocket. He rushed for 1,575 yards in his three seasons as the Bills’ starter. Rivers has 609 yards on the ground since 2004.

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Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa says his decision to hold out his rookie year may have pushed the team to avoid another contract spat with him.

Taylor never has thrown more than six interceptions in a season but also never has thrown more than 20 touchdowns.

His teams are 24-21-1 in his starts. After being benched at one point during the 2017 season, Taylor came back to lead Buffalo into the playoffs, ending a 17-year postseason drought for the franchise.

“I think at the end of the day you gotta play your game and do what’s best for the team in that moment,” Taylor said. “You can’t worry about the critics. You can’t worry about stats. You have to play winning football.”

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As for Taylor helping bring along the player who could succeed him, Lynn said he believes the situation is an ideal one.

Along with Taylor and Herbert, the Chargers’ roster also includes quarterback Easton Stick, a fifth-round pick in 2019.

“I think Tyrod’s a great example for those guys, his work ethic and his communication skills with his teammates,” Lynn said. “… Just the perfect guy, I think, for Justin to sit behind and watch and learn and grow.”


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