Chargers QB Justin Herbert wins NFL offensive rookie of the year award

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert smiles after a touchdown run.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has brought smiles to a lot of faces with his rookie season performances.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Before the season began, no one was sure if Justin Herbert would play in 2020.

By the time it was over, no one was sure if Herbert could have played any better.

The Chargers quarterback capped his impressive arrival Saturday by winning the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award.

“Being a rookie quarterback is probably the hardest situation to be in in the NFL,” teammate Justin Jackson said. “And he made it look easy, man. That’s how you know he’s going to be a great player. He already is a great player, if we’re going to be honest.”


Herbert, drafted No. 6 overall in April, opened the season as the backup to veteran Tyrod Taylor, with no assurances the situation would change in the foreseeable future.

But Taylor was unable to start the Chargers’ Week 2 game against Kansas City after a locker room medical accident minutes before kickoff resulted in him suffering a punctured lung.

Herbert was forced into action and led the offense on an eight-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to open the game, scoring himself on a four-yard keeper. He never did relinquish the starting job, even after Taylor returned to health.

“The kid’s absolutely incredible on the football field,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “And I think he’s even a better person, just the way he commands leadership in the locker room. Really, really looking forward to playing with him the next few years.”

Herbert completed 66.6% of his passes for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert dives to complete a touchdown run
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has impressed with his throwing and running abilities.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

He set numerous franchise and league rookie records, produced eight 300-yard passing games and threw for at least three touchdowns six times. He also ran for five scores.

Herbert proved especially effective against pressure and in two-minute situations, areas where rookie quarterbacks might be expected to struggle.

Still, the Chargers lost seven of his first eight starts before going 5-2 to finish the season.

In addition to conducting 954,830 coronavirus tests on more than 7,000 people a week, the NFL also used trackers to keep players and team staff safe.

Feb. 5, 2021

“I was pleased with our performance,” Herbert said. “I wanted to come in and learn the offense and have a great understanding so that when my time was called, I’d be ready to go.”

Recent winners of the NFL’s offensive rookie award include Alvin Kamara, Dak Prescott and Todd Gurley.

Herbert is the second Charger to win the award, joining running back Don Woods in 1974.

“Every game I was on the edge of my couch, just excited,” said safety Derwin James, who missed the season because of a knee injury. “Every throw, every decision that he made … I can’t wait for 2021.”