For the first time in 16 years, Drew Brees was present at a Chargers minicamp practice on Wednesday. The team’s quarterback from 2001-05 before having an illustrious 15-year run with the Saints, Brees kept a close eye on Justin Herbert, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year who has his sights set on having an even bigger season in 2021.
It’s safe to say that Brees liked what he saw from Herbert, who threw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie.
“There’s no doubt his physical tools are as good as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Brees said, via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. “By all accounts, he’s a great worker, he’s got great leadership qualities, he’s got a lot of intangibles.”
Along with watching Herbert, Brees spent time Wednesday chatting with new Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who served as Brees’ quarterbacks coach for 10 seasons. Lombardi also spent two seasons as Matthew Stafford’s offensive coordinator in Detroit.
“I think he brings a ton of knowledge and experience, not only coaching quarterbacks but also within the system that we ran,” Brees said of Lombardi. “I think he’ll be able to tailor make that for Justin’s skills and the tools he has around him.”
Herbert isn’t the only member of the 2020 quarterback class who is changing coordinators. After a year in Chan Gailey’s offense, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will now work with co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville. Earlier this offseason, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians — a self-proclaimed quarterback whisperer — made headlines by stating that changing coordinators can be the “worst thing that can happen” to a young quarterback. While this has certainly been the case for some quarterbacks, it appears that Herbert is better prepared than other quarterbacks when it comes to changing coordinators.
Herbert had taken steps towards learning Lombardi’s offense prior to OTAs. He spoke to Brees, who won a Super Bowl with Lombardi serving as his quarterbacks coach. Herbert also reached out to his new center, All-Pro Corey Linsley. He began throwing passes with Keenan Allen and several other teammates well before the start of voluntary team activities.
It also helps that Herbert had different offensive coordinators during his time at Oregon. And while change is never easy, it hasn’t hindered Herbert’s performance in the past, and it shouldn’t lead to a drastic drop-off in production now.
“I think there’ll be parts [of the game plan] that are pretty similar but then other parts that are that aren’t so similar,” Herbert said, via Sports Illustrated. “I think one of the great things that I’ve had to go through is I’ve had to go through three or four different offenses, and you’ve had to kind of find a way to learn and pick them up quickly. I think I’ve done a good job of that, and hopefully, this year is no different.”
It also helps that Herbert — according to Brees — has generational talent as far as physical skills are concerned.