Justin Herbert is reason why QBs coach Shane Day couldn’t pass on Chargers job

Shane Day, middle, was the San Francisco 49ers' quarterbacks coach the last two seasons.
Shane Day, middle, was the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterbacks coach the last two seasons before he joined the Chargers in the same role this offseason.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Justin Herbert’s influence is so substantial that he is impacting both coaches’ decisions and coaching decisions.

The quarterback became the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2020 with a performance that dictated so many of the things the Chargers attempted to do with the football.

Then, after the season, following the dismissal of coach Anthony Lynn and most of his assistants, Herbert’s presence was one of the main reasons Shane Day agreed to join the new staff.

Asked Monday what appealed to him about the job, Day mentioned Herbert first before citing head coach Brandon Staley and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.


“Seeing him throw in person is very impressive,” Day said. “I mean, he’s one of the most impressive throwers I’ve been around.”

Make no mistake, Herbert is the No. 1 attraction for a franchise trying to build something special as it finally welcomes fans into SoFi Stadium this season.

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Day is the new passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He spent the last two years working with the quarterbacks in San Francisco and also has had NFL jobs with Miami, Washington and Chicago.

The 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo advanced to the Super Bowl following the 2019 season, only to lose to Kansas City.

But that team wasn’t driven by the arm of Garoppolo, who finished with only eight attempts in the NFC title game and had just two touchdown passes in the entire postseason.

The Chargers very much will rely on Herbert’s decorated ability to distribute the ball, particularly to wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler.


“We’re seeing him on the trajectory we want to see him at right now,” Day said. “As we started off and [have] gone through these last couple weeks of practice, he’s really, really sped up as far as what he knows. I think it’s all right where it’s supposed to be. It’s been perfect.”

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert walks with the ball during a practice Monday.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert walks with the ball during a practice Monday. Quarterbacks coach Shane Day is impressed by Herbert’s passing abilities.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Day said he has no concerns about Herbert’s ability to learn and command a new system, one expected to feature ever-changing personnel groupings and emphasize disguised looks.

Herbert was a successful student in college, achieving a 4.0 grade-point average and, as a senior, winning the William V. Campbell Trophy, an award often referred to as the academic Heisman.

During his time at Oregon, he also had three head coaches and two offensive coordinators, meaning the transitions to a second NFL head coach and offensive coordinator are nothing new.

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“He asks a lot of questions,” Day said. “He wants to know all the whys, you know, what’s the O-line doing, what’s the running back doing, what do the tight ends have? He wants to get the whole picture.


“I think that’s one of the most impressive things because, when you do that, it takes a lot of time on the front end but then everything starts to slow down for you. I think he’s finally getting to that stage where it’s slowing down.”

Asked recently about Herbert’s ability to bounce from one offense to another, Lombardi said the quarterback possesses “a lot of ‘figure-it-out-iveness,’ if that’s a word.” Technically, no, that’s not a word, but the idea is easy to grasp.

Herbert flourished last year despite entering the NFL amid a pandemic that greatly diminished the offseason program. He also did not have the benefit of extensive on-field work entering his first training camp.

Then he took over suddenly in Week 2, a last-minute injury replacement, and starred against a Chiefs team barely seven months removed from winning the Super Bowl.

“He’s able to learn quickly and apply things quickly,” Lombardi said. “He’s done it over and over again. We’re throwing a lot at him right now, not even so much offensively but all of the looks that he’s getting defensively.

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“But, every day, I think that we all get a little bit better. You definitely see that intelligence and that work ethic that is going to lead a guy like that to be successful in some difficult circumstances.”


Most of the Chargers’ on-field practices this offseason are unfolding at a walk-through pace. They typically are dressed only in shorts and T-shirts, and Herbert and the other quarterbacks rarely have thrown the ball.

The idea is to avoid injuries and put the focus on learning, which is especially significant with a new offense and a new defense being installed.

Even with the lack of genuine football taking place, Herbert continues to wow his new coaches.

“Just being around his mind and how he looks at the game has been very fun,” Day said. “The [meetings] have been really cool because I’ve got to see how his mind works, ask him a lot of questions, see how he processes information.”

Added Lombardi: “He’s fun to be around. … This is going to be very good in the long run, just as far as learning and everything. Looking forward to seeing him go full speed.”