Anthony Lynn still isn’t committing to Justin Herbert as Chargers’ starter

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn walks on the sideline during Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers.
(Jason Behnken / Associated Press)

He ducked the question immediately after the game Sunday, coach Anthony Lynn explaining it was too early to think about who will start for the Chargers at quarterback in their next game.

But a decision is looming. If there really is a decision to make, of course.

Through three games, rookie Justin Herbert has thrown for 931 yards. The only quarterback in NFL history to top that output to start a career is Cam Newton (1,102 in 2011 with Carolina). Herbert has completed 77 of 107 attempts (72%) and thrown for five touchdowns with three interceptions.


That production and the fact the Chargers drafted Herbert No. 6 overall in April to be their long-term quarterback solution would suggest he remains the starter Oct. 12 in New Orleans.

There can be no question about Herbert’s readiness to compete in the NFL. He has made rookie mistakes, crushing miscues that have helped cost the Chargers games, but has shown that he belongs, coach Bruce Arians even comparing Herbert to Patrick Mahomes after Tampa Bay’s 38-31 victory.

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert made some impressive throws, but turnovers doomed the Chargers in their 38-31 loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Oct. 4, 2020

Lynn, however, so far has been unwavering in his stance that Tyrod Taylor will return as the starter when he is “100% healthy.” Lynn, by all public appearances, already has made the decision. Taylor is moving closer to coming back after the rib injury and punctured lung that have sidelined him since minutes before kickoff in Week 2.

The Chargers have not placed Taylor on injured reserve, which suggests they believe he could return this week. The team has released no information regarding a timetable, but the IR decision seems to say plenty.

Lynn’s reasoning — in the screaming face of what everyone has seen on the field — is both straightforward and nuanced. Taylor did nothing to lose the starting job, which fits with the old-school football rule about job security and injuries.


But, in this case, the latter injury was the result of an accident involving a team doctor, who inadvertently wounded Taylor trying to give him a pregame injection meant to address the rib problem. In other words, not only did Taylor do nothing to lose the starting job, but also the Chargers were the ones who did something for him to lose the starting job. That’s not exactly a small measure of accountability.

Lynn has long expressed his admiration for Taylor and his belief the team can win with him at quarterback. Herbert performing well would have no bearing on Lynn’s opinion of Taylor.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was carted off the field after sustaining a hamstring injury in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Bucs.

Oct. 4, 2020

The coach also can point to the coldest of facts: Taylor is 1-0 this season and Herbert is 0-3.

True, the Chargers have been competitive in each of their losses largely because of Herbert’s production. But there is no closing argument stronger in sports than the scoreboard.

Herbert has four turnovers and played some part — Lynn suggested — in Josh Kelley’s momentum-shifting fumble Sunday, a mistake Lynn called “inexcusable.”

When asked about Taylor’s qualities, Lynn’s response often starts with his history of taking care of the football. Starting with the 2019 season opener, the Chargers are 5-4 when they win or break even in the turnover battle, 1-10 when they lose it.

“It’s not really my decision,” Herbert said. “What I think doesn’t really matter. I know that I’ve done my best these past couple of weeks. I’ve got so much farther to go, so much more to learn.”

Herbert does look like the potential answer for years to come. But the question right now is the present, and Taylor almost certainly will be given the shot Lynn believes he still deserves.