One of the more popular criticisms of Mike Tomlin over the last decade of Ben Roethlisberger’s career as the Steelers franchise quarterback was that the head coach wasted it by not getting back to a fourth Super Bowl (during Roethlisberger’s tenure, of course) and winning a third Lombardi.
Anyway, I fell asleep on Saturday night, right when the Los Angeles Chargers were about to engage the Jacksonville Jaguars in a wildcard game down in Florida. I woke up about 90 minutes later to a Facebook meme from an old friend of mine that was inspired by Life, a hilarious movie starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence: “Welcome to Ray’s Boohoo Room,” said the meme, and it was referring to the Jaguars’ misfortunes in this playoff game.
This meme caused me to check the score of the game, and when I saw that the Chargers led 27-0 late in the first half, I decided to stream that aforementioned movie on Netflix instead of watching the rest of this postseason matchup.
It wasn’t long before I fell asleep again (long day), but I checked the score when I woke up first thing in the morning, only to find that the Jaguars had completed a miraculous comeback and won the game by a score of 31-30.
You might think I was shocked by this development, but you’d be wrong. Instead, I said, “The Chargers failure to do anything with a franchise quarterback isn’t a surprise to me.”
Justin Herbert, the third-year man out of Oregon, is the Chargers’ latest franchise quarterback. Herbert has it all: Size, athleticism, a strong arm—basically, all of the attributes one is looking for in a big-time NFL quarterback.
It’s too bad Herbert still has yet to produce a playoff victory.
Will Herbert have his likeness immortalized in Canton, Ohio, one day way down the road? It’s possible, but even if this happens, it’s also possible that Herbert will earn this honor after a career that includes little postseason success and zero championship rings.
Why do I say this?
Because the Chargers have already employed one quarterback who is already in the Hall of Fame, Dan Fouts, and two more who will surely be enshrined there in the future, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, and they couldn’t even so much as make it to a Super Bowl with any of them.
That’s right, the Chargers advanced to the postseason four teams with Fouts—1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982—and only made it as far as the AFC Championship Game two times.
The Chargers made it to the playoffs once during Brees’ tenure—2001-2005—before getting back there another six times with Rivers at the helm. That’s seven playoff seasons with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks (their careers actually overlapped in San Diego). Unfortunately, the Chargers only have one AFC title game appearance (in 2007 with Rivers as the quarterback) to show for it.
You want to talk about wasting a lot of years with franchise quarterbacks? The Steelers have had two bona fide franchise quarterbacks in my lifetime—Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger—and parlayed them into six Lombardi trophies. The Chargers have employed four since the year after I was born, and, again, they don’t even have a Lamar Hunt Trophy to show for it (and, no, I’m not talking about the one that damn Stan Humphries helped them hoist at old Three Rivers Stadium on that infamous day in January of 1995).
If my math is correct, the Chargers have had a franchise quarterback leading their team for 39 of the past 50 years. Those four franchise quarterbacks—including Herbert who, again, has all the tools—have produced 12 postseasons, eight division titles, three AFC title game appearances and zero Super Bowl appearances.
That’s freaking amazing.
The jury is still out on Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh’s young quarterback who is a rookie no more, but if he does turn himself into a bona fide franchise passer, I have no doubt the Steelers will know how to parlay that fortune into some championship success.
It’s often not about where you’re drafted but who drafts you.
Just ask Dan Fouts, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and, most likely, Justin Herbert.