LA Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is already lightyears ahead of New York Jets quarterback, Sam Darnold.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold was taken with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Two years later, fellow PAC-12 quarterback Justin Herbert was selected with the sixth overall pick by the LA Chargers.
Both are young quarterbacks that are tasked to be the face of their respective franchise, although Darnold’s time is running thin. The 23-year-old quarterback is already getting overlooked for greener pastures in the form of Trevor Lawrence.
Charger fans will not see Sam Darnold return to action in Los Angeles in Week 11. Darnold is suffering a shoulder sprain and veteran quarterback Joe Flacco is starting in his place.
Despite Darnold not playing, there have been some comparisons between the two young quarterbacks and one, in particular, that is quite interesting. Steve Serby of the New York Post uses Darnold’s fall from grace as a cautionary tale for Herbert and fans of the LA Chargers.
The message: at one point you can be on top of the world as a young quarterback and then in a blink of an eye you can be in a terrible situation and soon-to-be on another team.
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and Darnold’s Jets career isn’t dead yet, but his inability to overcome the incompetence and Losing Syndrome that swirls around him has placed him in jeopardy.
In which case, he would stand as a cautionary tale even for Justin Herbert.”
Serby does make the distinction that Herbert is uber-talented but also outlined how promising things looked for the New York Jets when they selected Darnold with the third overall pick in 2018. While they are both young and from the PAC-12, this is a completely different situation.
I completely understand the argument that Herbert could fall victim to a losing culture in LA and that could hurt his production, which is what has happened to Darnold. The start of Herbert’s career has not been great (record-wise) which can be concerning in terms of building a winning demeanor.
However, quarterback wins are an extremely flawed stat. The LA Chargers are not losing these games because of Justin Herbert and it is not unique for a team to lose games with a talented young quarterback. Kyler Murray’s Arizona Cardinals were 5-10-1 last season. Now look.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how promising Darnold once was, he never reached the point that Herbert has already reached. Right out of the gate we knew that Darnold would be a project in the NFL and that it would take time for him to reach his potential.
That is not the case with Herbert. He came out of the gate hot. Typically, when quarterbacks are able to put it together that soon and put up record-setting numbers, they pan out.
Let’s compare Herbert’s first eight games to Darnold’s first eight games.
- Justin Herbert: 201-301 (66.8%), 2,333 yards, 19 TDs, 6 INTs,
- Sam Darnold: 138-250 (55.25%), 1,705 yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs
It is not even close. Herbert has been lightyears better than Darnold was through his first eight games. Heck, Herbert is averaging 291.6 yards per game through eight games. Darnold has five games in his entire career with at least 292 yards. Herbert already has the same number of 300-yard games.
There are levels to being a quarterback prospect. Some are projects that either pan out or they don’t. Guys like Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky fall into this group. They are projects right away out of college and sometimes they take the next step, like Allen, and other times they don’t, like Darnold and Trubisky.
Then there are the quarterbacks who are bonafide studs as soon as they get into the league. These guys nearly always pan out. Guys like Patrick Mahomes (who was great as soon as he took over the starting job), Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, heck, even Joe Burrow.
Herbert has the third-most passing yards in NFL history through eight career starts. The guys ahead of him are Andrew Luck (MVP-caliber) and Cam Newton (won an MVP). It is not a coincidence.
So while I get the notion that nothing is guaranteed and we should not expect Justin Herbert to pilot the LA Chargers to the Super Bowl, I would refrain from using Sam Darnold of all players as a comparison.
They are not the same quarterback. Herbert is lightyears ahead of Darnold already.