LA Chargers: This may be Justin Herbert's fatal flaw

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders / Steve Marcus/GettyImages

2021 is officially over, and the LA Chargers just missed out on a playoff berth.

Much to the dismay of myself as a Justin Herbert truther, and I'm sure many of you as well, the Bolts dropped 3 of their last 4 games of the season and ultimately got booted from postseason play at the hands of Derek Carr and the Raiders in Week 18.

Emotions are still probably very raw, and the last thing Bolt fans want to hear right now is a pep talk, but what Justin Herbert displayed in that Week 18 game, and the entire 2021 season overall now that you mention it, is all the makings of a superstar.

2021 might not have worked out in Bolt Nation's favor on the scoreboard, but for the franchise quarterback in his sophomore year, he exceeded expectations that came on the heels of his fabulous rookie season.

He stumbled in a few spots here and there. I certainly won't get into the debacle that was the Houston game. But the Chargers organization, and really Charger fans, have to feel good about who they're going to be riding for hopefully the next decade.

If we look at his performance on the season, Herbert was second in total passing yards (5,014), passing yards per game (294.9), and completions (443), as well as third in touchdowns thrown (38) and the all-encompassing QBR (66.0)- what some may consider the most important stat for quarterbacks.

Yeah I know, he threw 15 interceptions and finished outside the top ten in passer rating (97.7). However, when I get to the crux of my article here, perhaps those stats might bear a little more context.

His performance against the Raiders in Week 18 was perhaps his best of the season. I said "perhaps," folks.

Maybe not on the stat sheets or in the win column, but in terms of gutsiness, tenacity, resiliency, and being oh so importantly clutch, no other performance of this year rivals it in my opinion.

Every throw Justin made in that second half was with ferociousness, and what it took in his psyche to battle back from 29-14 in the fourth quarter and actually send the Bolts to overtime, literally willing his team to victory, is what only legends of the game possess.

But if it was such a great performance, why didn't he win the game?

That brings me to my biggest issue with Justin Herbert. And some may even consider it his fatal flaw.

It's quite simply the fact that Justin cannot catch, pass rush, run-stop, cover receivers, coach, or draft/sign/trade for his own players.

As a quarterback, one can only do so much, and if the Week 18 game was any indication, the Chargers as a team have a long way to go if it ever wants to position itself into serious title contention.

It has been an issue of mine from the very get-go of this 2021 season that the Bolts did not do enough in the offseason to put adequate pieces around Justin Herbert.

I wrote a few articles on this way back then- one on why Julio Jones would have been an excellent wide receiver addition and two on why Zach Ertz would have been as well.

Jones turned out to be a bit of a bust, but my sentiment there was correct- the Chargers needed another big-time receiver. And I still believe to this day that Ertz is an optimal choice for the Bolts considering he fits like a glove in California and a two-tight-end offensive scheme would highly benefit this team.

Why do I say Herbert needs more receivers? Or perhaps "better" ones in some regard? It ties into the interception and passer rating stats on this season I mentioned before as the Chargers led the league in dropped passes this year (according to NBC Sports) with 33.

Keenan Allen led the league himself with 9 dropped passes (along with Ja'Marr Chase), and Jared Cook and Austin Ekeler also found themselves in the top ten in dropped passes with 6 apiece- again, according to NBC Sports.

That accounts for 21 dropped passes by three of your top four targets if you're the LA Chargers.

Keenan Allen is an astute receiver in this league with some of the best route-running and reliability known to man. But I also think Week 18 was a good anecdote of how his season went overall, and how him being exclusively double-covered and stifled by defenses ultimately took this Chargers team out of its comfort zone.

If Allen can be double-covered so easily and so frequently, it is a sign that your depth in the receiving core is a serious issue.

I believe this is what Allen saw for most of the year, it played a major factor in him dropping so many passes, and it also played a major factor in Justin's interceptions being so inflated and passer rating dropping.

As for Brandon Staley and the defensive side of the ball, I believe what we saw in Week 18 demonstrated a microcosm of what went wrong for the Bolts on that side of the ball all season.

Staley came onto the Chargers as the former defensive coordinator of a stout Rams defense that was third in rushing yards per game allowed, second in sacks, and first in passing yards per game allowed, yards per game allowed, and points per game allowed a year ago.

Fast-forward to 2021 where the Chargers, under Staley's control, tallied only 35 sacks on the season, finished 23rd in yards per game allowed, and a whopping 30th in rushing yards and points per game allowed.

There are certainly good pieces on the defensive side for the Bolts, but 2021 was an extraordinary failure by many standards across the board for that side of the ball.

Staley was the man at the helm, and I can't help but think, after also seeing his (in my opinion) inexcusable play calls and decisions in Week 18, that maybe he's not all that he was cracked up to be- and I say that as someone who immediately hopped on here to exclaim my approval of the Staley hiring. My, how quickly things can change in one season!

I'm sure many Charger fans would like this current team to figure it out together and not cut bait with anybody just yet. I certainly do too. But what troubles me about this season is that it has become evident that Justin is shouldering a disproportionate amount of the load on this Chargers team, and if left unchecked, I can't help but question this team's overall ceiling.

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I hope for a prosperous and progressive offseason for Justin Herbert's sake