Standing Tall: Justin Herbert’s Unsung Virtue

Mike West Analysis 16 Comments

Oregon fans and critics alike have sung the praises of Eugene’s own Justin Herbert. The cannon arm, the prototype quarterback physique, and the sneaky athleticism that led the Ducks to a Conference Championship and Rose Bowl win, all reasons for Herbert’s selection by the Los Angeles Chargers at the six spot in this year’s NFL Draft.

But one virtue remains unsung.  Ducks/Charger alumnus and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts was famous for standing tall in the pocket and throwing accurately as he took a hit. Will Herbert continue this tradition for the ‘Bolts?

Standing Tall? Why Is That Important?

Well for starters, it allows wide receivers more time to get open. Let’s view another Duck quarterback as an example.

Above is footage of Darron Thomas who was known for standing tall in the pocket and delivering accurate passes under pressure. It was astonishing at times how brave he must have been because often the Ducks would run a play-action pass, which meant that Thomas had less protection by design on the play. The best aspect: both receivers had more time to find gaping holes in the secondary.

But Mike, Both Receivers Were Open Anyway!

Perhaps. But what impact did Thomas’s pocket bravery have on the defense? Within striking distance of a sack, “Cruisin to lay a Bruisin” dissolved into fairy dust.

In the video above, Herbert delivers a laser to Mycah Pittman as the wide receiver breaks off his out route. All this amidst a menacing defensive end lunging at the stoic quarterback. The ultimate impact? Herbert stymies an intimidating pass rush, silences a ferocious Fusky crowd, and helps his Ducks move the chains.

That Wasn’t Intimidating!

Indeed it was, yet the effort was squashed.  But wait, The Kool-aid King has more!  Repeatedly thwarting sacks with quick passes deflates egos on defense and triggers doubts they can stop a tough quarterback that risks punishment as he stands tall. And it doesn’t end there…

Note the impact of the pass completion in the above video. The ultimate weapon: the explosive play.  Plays Chip Kelly imprinted in our  minds with his pinball running attack. I’ve clearly emphasized the vital aspects of designing a  lethal offense.

Explosive plays (plays resulting in gains of 20 or more yards) are the ignition that launches offenses into the stratosphere.  Sequential plays, (like the first play of Thomas‘ video), Clutch plays (like the first video of Herbert above), and explosive plays like Herbert’s second video (and both of Thomas’ plays) are the perfect storm. Boom Boom Boom, Touchdown!

Statues Don’t Score Points

But quarterbacks do.  Especially after an explosive play demoralizes a defense that missed its kill shot, as a wide receiver gains time to get open deep.

Justin Herbert – another Duck quarterback that perfected a skill that stamped an imprint into the minds of Duck fans the world over – like the Oregon logo at midfield.

Who’s next?

Mike West
Las Vegas, Nevada
Top photo by Pac-12 Video

Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.



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Joshua Whitted

Goodness gracious, those two throws by Herbert … absolutely ridiculous! When people use the term “arm talent,” they’re generally referencing throws like Herbert’s in that third video. He was in mid air, being nailed by a defender, and he threw an absolute dime.

Great article, Mike, and good clips, too. Herbert has his flaws, but he’s undoubtedly courageous, and some of the throws he can make under duress are truly remarkable.


Recruiting Noise!!! Andrew Nemec tweeted earlier today that the Ducks could have, “silent commitments” lurking about, this idea backed up by one of the stars of the recruiting class, LB Keith Brown. It takes a subscription now to read an O Live story , and since I’ve never had a subscription to The Oregonian, I couldn’t read who Nemec had as candidates, but there are fantastic possibilities.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

This is OFF-TOPIC, but FishDuck had big plans for expansion of which will occur when we have a football season again. The absolute worst time ever to convert to a subscription requirement in years, is right now … and that is what OregonLive did.

I am glad we dodged that one!


Justin Herbert drafted by the San Diego Chargers?? I thought they were out of business three years ago.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Good catch; some of us that are Greybeard age fall into old habits. Neither the writer, editor, Editor-in-Chief or I noticed!

I went and changed it…

David Marsh

Fun article… I remember several pundits saying Herbert’s best plays were the ones you showed. Taking the hit to deliver the pass.


I think the two clips you showed are exactly why Herbert was drafted where he was. Most of us had some gripes with the oregon’s offense/Herbert’s play in the last 2 seasons but these plays show his extremely high potential. I bet herbert has a higher completion rate of throws thrown while being hit than he does thrown to kampmoyer. If he could make these reads, throw these balls consistently than he is the best qb to ever play at Oregon, I hope he gets more QB coaching at LA.


Thanks for the great article! I enjoy watching the videos; especially the expert coaching advise of what to look for in each video. I always learn much. You and the others who post these analyses are appreciated!


HAHAHA!!!! OK, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t stop laughing at the first video when “His name is David Paulson” is outrun by his shoe. That dude was an almost unknown when he started here, but WOW, talk about a reliable TE. I’d take him back in a heartbeat.


He sure was, and we could have definitely used him last season.


Thanks, Mike, you’re absolutely right about Fouts & I think particularly Thomas, as being famous for standing tall, waiting until the last, split second, before hitting the receiver in stride. But two Ducks QB’s made their mark by doing anything other than standing tall, maybe part of the reason why is because neither Jeramiah Masoli or Vernon Adams didn’t stand tall anywhere.

But, it was in the pocket where the difference between the latter and former pairs is so stark; in the case of Adams his unwillingness was a blessing and a curse; his injuries came as he scampered around the field, but so did some amazing passes.

There’s a fine line in standing tall, waiting until the last second like DT is great, but hanging on to the ball too long is bad, the successful QB has to understand that the best option sometimes is to throw the ball away. This is sometimes in conflict with their instinct to, “make a play”, but it’s imperative that they adapt to understand it. Herbert has all the measurables to stand tall, and he has the smarts, hopefully they’ll come together for him with the Chargers.

Jon Joseph

Thanks Mike.

Still of course takes guts to stay in the pocket when you know you are going to be hit but the QBs today do have far more rulebook protection than back in the day.

Can’t be tackled low and cannot take a hit to the head? This used to be the norm; especially, if you knew the QB had a bad wheel.

The hit on Lawrence in the CFB Clemson/OH ST semi last season is a play that used to be applauded. The OH ST DB was kicked out and it changed the entire tenor of the game.

With what we know about CTE, etc., today, the rule changes were a proper and required change. How far do we go? By 2040 those of us still standing may be watching a far different game.

We are already seeing more QBs who ‘dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee’ than we did back when. I expect this trend will continue.

Always great to read your takes. But I am ticked off that the cancellations saved you from having to pay me!

Jon Joseph

I remember it well. Also recall Carrington being champ game benched and benched for half of the next season for weed.

Meanwhile, Bosa the Elder tested positive in season and was benched for 1 game.