The LA Chargers were headed for their first playoff win in the Justin Herbert era last season before they squandered a 27-0 lead to the Jacksonville Jaguars after Trevor Lawrence threw four first half interceptions.
Of course, that loss wasn't on Herbert.
The defense capitulated in the second half after they surrendered seven first half points, Brandon Staley put forth a nightmarish display of game management by continuing to drop back to pass in the second half instead of running the football.
That said, Herbert is going to have to win a playoff game -- and make a deep run -- soon to justify his place among the NFL's elite quarterbacks. It doesn't help he has to overcome cheap ownership and a middling head coach, but 2022 seemingly was Herbert's last free pass before he starts facing the music.
Entering the 2023 season, Herbert ranked fourth in PFF's quarterback rankings, behind Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, respectively, and one spot ahead of future first ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.
Chargers' Justin Herbert ahead of Aaron Rodgers in PFF's QB rankings
Chargers fans shouldn't have any qualms with these rankings. While Mahomes is deserving of his own tier at the top, it's well understood Allen and Burrow round out the top three. Some rankings would have Jalen Hurts No. 4 over Herbert -- or higher in the eyes of some writers -- but PFF writer Sam Monson wants the Eagles star to sustain his MVP-caliber 2022.
What's particularly odd is that Monson has Hurts behind Lamar Jackson (No. 6), but that just underlines how loaded the AFC is and the task Herbert and the Bolts have ahead of them to reach the mountaintop. Per Monson, the top six QBs in the league reside in the AFC, including seven of the top 10.
Here's what Monson said of Herbert's placement.
"This is a big year for Herbert to justify the hype that has surrounded him since his phenomenal rookie season. We have seen glimpses of what he is capable of, but he passed for just 6.8 yards per attempt last season and finished eighth in PFF passing grade. Kellen Moore's arrival as the Chargers' offensive coordinator could be the key that fully unlocks Herbert, and if he is, this is where Herbert belongs."
The big takeaway is Herbert checking in ahead of Rodgers, who's coming off a playoff-less final season in Green Bay, but wasn't put in a great position to succeed last year by the Packers' front office and is one year removed from winning back-to-back MVPs.
Rodgers is still elite, but it goes without saying Herbert is the superior quarterback with the former entering his age-40 season. Rodgers threw for one more touchdown last season, but Herbert played through a fractured rib cartilage and his top receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missed a combined 10 games. He also underwent surprise surgery on his shoulder this offseason.
Herbert has the talent to leapfrog Allen and Burrow, but he needs some head-to-head playoff victories with a deep run (or runs) sprinkled in for the media to consider holding him in that light. For now, though, ranking as the No. 4 quarterback in the league is justifiable given what he delivers every Sunday.