Justin Herbert played the worst game of his NFL career against New England last season. But those 60 minutes of football didn't change how Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels felt about the talented Los Angeles Chargers quarterback.
Following the Patriots' 45-0 rout of the Chargers last season -- in which Herbert completed just 49% of his passes for 209 yards with two interceptions -- McDaniels pulled the then-rookie aside for a brief conversation. The MMQB's Albert Breer shared details of that conversation Sunday on "Patriots Pregame Live" ahead of the 2021 edition of Chargers-Patriots.
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"There was a really interesting moment between Josh McDaniels and Justin Herbert after that blowout win over the Chargers last season," Breer said, as seen in the video above.
" ... Josh went and sought out Herbert after the game and told him, despite how Justin had played that afternoon, how much he thought of him as a player, how much he thought of him as a prospect. I know it meant a lot to Justin Herbert hearing that, and that was a result of all the work that Josh McDaniels had done in building a relationship with Justin Herbert over the course of the offseason."
Herbert was a top-10 prospect who went fifth overall to the Chargers in the 2020 NFL Draft, so it seemed very unlikely he'd land with the Patriots, who actually traded their first-round pick that year (No. 23 overall) to Los Angeles. But McDaniels was a serious candidate to take the Chargers' head coach job last offseason, so he may have done some extra scouting on Herbert in preparation for that opportunity.
"In fact, that's why Josh McDaniels wanted that Chargers job," Breer said of McDaniels' relationship with Herbert. "So, I think that's evidence there how much the Patriots thought of Justin Herbert.
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"I don't know if it was ever going to happen. They would have had to move way up the (draft) board to go and get Justin Herbert, but I can tell you at the very least, Josh McDaniels and that offensive staff thought the world of Justin Herbert."
New England's admiration of Herbert was well-placed: The Oregon product earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors after a brilliant rookie campaign for Los Angeles and already is one of the top 10 QBs in the league at age 23.
The Patriots have their own promising quarterback in rookie Mac Jones, who will try to upset Herbert's Chargers on Sunday in Los Angeles. But McDaniels clearly has plenty of respect for the QB on the other sideline at SoFi Stadium.