New Orleans Saints’ quarterback coach, Joe Lombardi is now the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. What can we expect?
Lombardi has spent 12 of his 14 seasons in the NFL with the Saints. But for 23 games, the 2014-2015 season, he was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
His experience as the offensive coordinator in Detroit was less than rewarding. In his only full season, the Lions ran the ball for 88.9 yards per game. That was the 28th best in the NFL that season.
Quarterback, Matthew Stafford: 602 passing attempts, 363 completions, 60.3% completion rate, 4,257 yards, 7.1 average yards, 22 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and sacked 45 times.
Running Back, Joique Bell: (although this was the time of Reggie Bush, Bush played in fewer games and thus was second behind Bell in stats): 15 games, 223 rushing attempts, 860 rushing yards, 3.9 average yards per rush, 7 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver, Golden Tate: 16 games, 142 targets, 99 receptions, 1,331 yards, 13.4 average yards per reception, 4 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver, Calvin Johnson: 13 games, 128 targets, 71 receptions, 1,077 yards, 15.2 average yards per reception, 8 touchdowns.
Lombardi was fired mid-way through the 2015 season. The team had trouble in pass protection and running the ball. Lombardi returned to New Orleans after he was fired.
Lombardi has said, “the biggest thing he learned from his first opportunity in Detroit, was that he needs to be more flexible when assessing his personnel and their abilities.”
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were ranked ninth in the league in total offense. They were ranked sixth in passing for the 2020 season.
Quarterback, Justin Herbert: 595 passing attempts, 396 completions, 66.55 completion %, 4,336 passing yards, 7.3 average yards per attempt, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and sacked 32 times.
Running Back, Austin Ekeler: 116 rushing attempts, 530 rushing yards, 4.6 average yards per attempt, 1 touchdown.
Running Back, Joshua Kelley: 111 rushing attempts, 354 rushing yards, 3.2 average yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver, Keenan Allen: 147 targets, 100 receptions, 992 yards, 9.9 yards per reception, 8 touchdowns.
Tight End, Hunter Henry: 93 targets, 60 receptions, 613 yards, 10.2 yards per reception, 4 touchdowns.
It is early and it is a new coaching regime so it is hard to “pin down” just what to expect from Lombardi. He has dropped a few nuggets and there are of course past successes and failures.
Although Herbert seemed to flourish in his first NFL season, Lombardi has suggested that he will go back to Herbert’s days at Oregon to tap into what he does best. Interesting?
Herbert, in his first season in the NFL, set a new record for the most pass completions by a rookie in a single season. He finished with 396 completions, breaking Carson Wentz‘s 2016 rookie record of 379 completions.
He also broke the record for the most total touchdowns by a rookie in a season. He had 31 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns. This record was previously held by Cam Newton who had 32 total touchdowns.
It should also be noted that Herbert was rocking a 121.3 passer rating against the blitz. That was the third-best in the league. He had seven touchdowns when under pressure.
Lombardi has suggested that he is looking to have an “up-tempo and no-huddle offense”. And that he is “comfortable with whatever our guys are good at.” Herbert’s Oregon Ducks played no-huddle. The Chargers played some no-huddle but did not implement it consistently, playing it on 3.75% of their offensive plays, per NFLsavant.com.
There is also the situational play-calling that was a contributing factor to the 21 blown leads as the team became known as “playing not to lose” verses “playing to win.”
Lombardi has said, “If you look at bare statistics, you know, every time a quarterback drops back to pass, you average seven and a half to eight and a half yards per pass, and you might average four and a half yards per run So man, it’s easier sometimes to get big plays and chunks and get the ball downfield passing it.”
And, “I’m a big fan of going for it on fourth down. Every game situation is different.”
For the 2020 season, the Chargers were 99-of-224 on third-down conversions and 12-of-25 on fourth down conversions. To be fair, teams went for it on fourth down 658 times during the 2020 season. That was up from the 595 times the season before. So Lombardi is trending with the league. Now it is up to him to design an offense that is more than 48% effective on fourth down. Or better yet, be better than 41.19% on third-down conversions.
He has promised a more aggressive approach. He has raved about Allen’s ability to get separation and compared Ekeler to Alvin Kamara.
It all sounds good. A no huddle, fast-tempo offense with a quarterback who excelled in his first year in an offense that did not necessarily play to his collegiate strengths.
Now all that has to happen is to put words into action.