'Authentic' Justin Herbert has Chargers coach Brandon Staley excited about potential together

Justin Herbert’s greatest strength — his intelligence — was well-known by the time the NFL neared the 2020 draft, but it was the rest of the package that was still an uncertainty.

Did he have the physical capability to run an NFL offense after operating in a spread-style attack at Oregon? Did he have the right footwork necessary? The moxie needed to earn the trust and support of his teammates amid the fire that is an NFL game?

Turns out, the answer to all of that was a resounding yes, and it all came down to one key element for Herbert — authenticity.

“The definition of leadership is do you make other people better? Do you make the people around you better?” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said of Herbert, via the team’s official site. “Do you elevate their performance and can you connect with a lot of different types of people? That’s another thing that I think is a defining characteristic of leadership and I think the way that Justin goes about it is so exciting because none of it’s manufactured. He’s so authentic and I think that that’s what people appreciate about him so much, and I think that now that he’s at the beginning and he’s been able to compete at this level and produce at this level, I think it’s only going to give him more confidence.”

Herbert’s physical skills shined as a rookie when he was thrown into action in Week 2 and never relinquished the job, finishing sixth in passing yards, 10th in passing touchdowns and 12th in passer rating in the entire league. That made him an easy choice for Offensive Player of the Year, answering all of his critics not with his words, but his actions.

“With any type of player in the NFL, confidence is so important,” Staley said. “For him to have been able to play like that, I think you know that he belongs and at the same time all the good players know that there’s so much work to be done because there’s a lot that each guy can improve on, and that’s kind of how Justin’s wired and that’s why he’s been so much fun to work with so far.”

Staley’s staff has yet to complete a game with Herbert, so it’s telling that the coach is already so effusive in his praise and appreciation for Herbert. The former Oregon star isn’t the type to gravitate toward the spotlight — unless the spotlight is shining on the field — but that kind of praise for the mental make-up of a quarterback this early usually indicates a generally shared feeling within the organization. Players, of course, will judge you on your performance, but also how you handle adversity. Is the one in question the type who wilts under pressure, gives up and points fingers, or does he decide to be the first to fearlessly run through the walls of adversity?

It seems Herbert has proven he is the latter, earning the respect of his teammates (playing well helps, too) and his new coaching staff before they’ve even hit a practice field together. If they mesh as well as Herbert did with his new team in 2020, we might be talking about the Chargers as winners once more.

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