The big story around the Chargers on Wednesday was Justin Herbert showing up with his first haircut in years.
“It was getting too long,” Herbert told the media, “so it was time to cut it.”
There were more haircut questions, of course, because this is the way it is with a franchise’s golden boy.
“When was the last time you cut it?”
“Probably 2018, ’17, so it’s been a while,” Herbert said.
“Did you find a barber you like down here in the Cosa Mesa area?”
“It was actually our strength and conditioning coach, John Lott,” Herbert said. “He said he was pretty good with the clippers, so he took care of that.”
“What’s the review on John Lott?”
“I think he did a great job. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy. Just trimming it down, he did that job, so pleased with it,” Herbert said.
“So you’ll go back again in a few months?”
“It might be longer than that. It probably takes a while to grow back, so it might be a year or so,” Herbert said.
“Justin, do you still have your agreement with Head & Shoulders, or is that gone now that you have no hair?”
That drew a laugh from Herbert.
“I don’t know, I’ve been so focused on football, I really haven’t worried about all those extracurricular activities, so it’s been all football. It’s been all Jets this week,” Herbert said.
When Justin Herbert (19 TDs, six INTs) faces the Jets (0-9) on Sunday, Sam Darnold will be watching, and rehabbing his sprained throwing shoulder in a desperate attempt to shape his own future or preserve his Jets future.
Darnold is learning one of the cruelest lessons of the cutthroat NFL:
No matter who you are, you can be hair today, and gone tomorrow.
He was only 21 years and 97 days old, the youngest quarterback to start a season opener since the 1970 merger the night he Namathed the Lions at Ford Field and hugged his parents afterwards outside the visiting locker room, and New York — especially that part of championship-starved New York that colors itself green and white — sure seemed like the right place at the right time for a young franchise quarterback oozing with talent and promise.
Slowly, but surely and sadly, it has turned into the wrong place at the wrong time for him.
Jets fans reduced to pulling their hair out — for the umpteenth time — are now dreaming of Trevor Lawrence and his golden locks, and wouldn’t care if the Clemson quarterback showed up resembling former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Darnold can only hope Joe Flacco can upset Herbert and the Chargers to keep the Jets from 0-10 and an inexorable march to 0-16 and Lawrence.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and Darnold’s Jets career isn’t dead yet, but his inability to overcome the incompetence and Losing Syndrome that swirls around him has placed him in jeopardy.
In which case, he would stand as a cautionary tale even for Justin Herbert.
Herbert, Joe Burrow and now Tua Tagovailoa, have mostly hit the ground running with a rookie precociousness that have their respective franchises and fan bases hyperventilating.
Herbert Wally Pipp-ed Tyrod Taylor and, except for a slight hiccup Sunday against the Dolphins, he hasn’t looked back.
Giants rookie guard Shane Lemieux blocked for Herbert at Oregon.
“Ever since I first saw him on the field his freshman year, he stuck out like a sore thumb,” Lemieux told The Post. “Honestly, when he got to Oregon, I couldn’t tell he was on scholarship because he was tall, he was really skinny, no one really talked about him, we had another quarterback in the class that everyone was hyping up. But the first day, seven-on-seven, I saw him throwing balls and I knew he was gonna be special.”
A lot was made about Herbert being an introvert.
“He’s not a natural outspoken guy in front of like big crowds and that kinda stuff when he first got to Oregon,” Lemieux said. “He started being ‘the guy’ at Oregon. He opened up, he was able to address the team, he knew everybody’s name, every single person that works in the staff, he knew ’em by their first name. They try to find flaws on every guy coming out in college. They pinned that on him, it was a rumor, and I don’t think it was ever true.”
Herbert had the requisite huddle presence. Lemieux referenced a last-minute field goal drive against Washington State.
“His presence alone I think commands a lot of respect and a lot of confidence,” Lemieux said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy. He basically just said, ‘We gotta get this done right here.’ ”
Lemieux added: “He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met.”
Herbert opted to stay in school for his senior season.
“He’s from Eugene, so that’s his hometown team, a bunch of the seniors decided to come back based off of his decision,” Lemieux said. “We felt that we had some unfinished business. And plus he wanted to play with his younger brother Pat, who was gonna be a freshman.”
Herbert was as popular with his Oregon teammates as Darnold had been from Day 1 with his Jets teammates.
“Everyone thinks [Herbert is] kind of an introvert, but he likes to have fun,” Lemieux said. “He’s just goofy. Anytime I’m with him, it’s a good time. He’s a big fisherman. He likes to hang out with the O-Line, I think that’s really important to him is that he has good chemistry with his offensive line.”
Justin Herbert is in the right place at the right time.
Sam Darnold can tell him that there are no guarantees that he won’t one day be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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