Air Raid: Ranking Justin Herbert's 2021 passing season in Chargers history

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders / Steve Marcus/GettyImages
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The 2021 regular season might not have been the most successful for the Chargers ever, but in terms of raw statistics/individual performances, it might have been one of the best. From Austin Ekeler’s 20 total touchdowns (tied for the second-most all-time in team history for total TDs) to Kyzir’s White’s 144 combined tackles (the most since 2005), the Bolts had some amazing individual performances last season.

However, one performance stood above all others last year: Justin Herbert’s excellence at the quarterback position. Though 2021 was a 17-game season, Justin Herbert still comfortably set franchise milestones for passing touchdowns (38) and game-winning drives (five). He also, of course, set new franchise records for completions (443) and passing yards (5,014) but more on those later. 

So where does 2021 rank in the pantheon of great Chargers passing seasons of all time? Well the statistics are certainly there, but let’s take a deeper dive into some other great statistical passing performances from over the years.

For this list, team records will certainly get factored into the equation along with the significance of the performance and its place in time. Or perhaps this will just be a highlight reel of L.T. throwing gorgeous lofting passing touchdowns (which you can only see on YouTube apparently). On to the list. 

Ranking the 5 best quarterback seasons in Chargers history:

No 5: Dan Fouts, 1982 season

Perhaps not the best overall year statistically in Bolts' history due to the 1982 NFL players strike (the NFL season was reduced to nine games when it resumed in November), Fouts still had an amazing campaign.

The Oregon product won the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year award and finished as the NFL MVP runner-up to Washington kicker (!!) Mark Moseley. In fact, his passing yards per game mark (320.3) is still the No. 1 performance in team history as of 2022. Fouts was recognized as a First-Team All-Pro selection this season and was still able to notch 17 touchdowns over nine games. 

The 1982 Bolts also had a lot of success on the field as the team went 6-3 and were also able to score a dramatic victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-28 in Pittsburgh during the first round of the playoffs. However, in a rematch from the prior season’s playoffs, San Diego fell to the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl, 34-13, in what would be Fouts’ last playoff game of his career.

What really helped the quarterback’s case this season was his amazing offensive line. All five starters on the San Diego line never missed a game that season and Fouts was sacked on only 3.5% of pass plays. In an era much different from today, the quarterback from Oregon basically owned the Chargers' record books until the 2000s.