The Los Angeles Chargers haven’t made the NFL playoffs since 2018 and have only made it twice since 2010. Drafting quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020 will likely change that soon, but after signing safety Derwin James to an extension that will pay him $19.1 million per year, the future is now for Brandon Staley, Herbert, and the Chargers.

From here on out — starting in 2022 — not making the playoffs will be a major failure for the organization and its franchise QB. Justin Herbert and the Chargers are out of excuses after the huge Derwin James deal.

Chargers QB Justin Herbert’s time to step up is now after Derwin James deal

Justin Herbert was a revelation from the moment he stepped on an NFL field for the Chargers. Sure, it took the team’s medical staff stabbing Tyrod Taylor in the chest to get him there, but he got there.

On his way to the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, Herbert threw for 4,336 yards with a 66.6% completion rate, 31 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions.

The team went 6-9 with Herbert as a starter in 2020, but there were plenty of excuses. Head coach Anthony Lynn was a mess, the line gave up the 17th-most sacks, and the defense allowed the 10th-most points in the league.

The Chargers addressed this in Herbert’s first offseason. They fired Lynn and replaced him with Brandon Staley. They drafted and signed free agents on the O-line and D, and last season, the Chargers only gave up the 25th-most sacks in the league.

Justin Herbert’s numbers stayed relatively flat in his second season. He threw for 5,014 yards with a 65.9% completion rate, 38 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in two more starts. However, the defense didn’t improve, allowing the fourth-most points in 2021.

This led to the Chargers missing the playoffs in the last game of the season during a heartbreaking overtime loss to the rival Las Vegas Raiders.

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This season, the franchise again addressed O-line and defense in the draft. They picked a guard No. 17 overall (Zion Johnson) and went defense in the third, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. They also signed All-Pro pass-rusher Khalil Mack, Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson, defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson, and linebacker Troy Reeder.

The Chargers also locked up their own stars. WR Mike Williams signed a three-year, $60 million extension this offseason and now there is Derwin James’ four-year $76 million deal.

This gives Justin Herbert and the Chargers two of the top six biggest WR cap hits in the league, with Williams $14M and Keenan Allen’s $19.2M.

The Derwin James contract means that the Chargers also now have four defensive players making over $15M per season: Joey Bosa ($27M), Mack ($23.5M), James ($19.1M), and Jackson ($16.5).

Justin Herbert and the Chargers now have one of the deepest and most star-studded rosters in the NFL. It is the young quarterback’s time to step up and lead his team to the promised land like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Joe Burrow have done before him.

The organization has given Herbert all the tools — on both sides of the ball and on the sideline with Brandon Staley — that he needs to succeed.

The time for excuses is over, and the time to lead is now. Yes, the AFC West is brutal, and injury and luck carry so much weight in the league. That said, the great QBs put their teams on their back no matter what the adversity, and Justin Herbert needs to do that for his team in his third year.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac