The 2023 NFL season has been a slog for the Los Angeles Chargers (5-8), and it went from bad to worse on Sunday, and then worse again on Tuesday. Quarterback Justin Herbert suffered a fractured index finger on his throwing hand that caused him to leave the game against the Denver Broncos in a neck-and-neck battle to remain in the AFC wild card race. Once the Chargers entered the home locker room at halftime, they ruled Herbert out for the remainder of the game. Los Angeles went on to lose 24-7 and fall far down the ladder for AFC wild-card contention.
After head coach Brandon Staley said on Monday that Herbert would see a pair of hand specialists and a determination would be made regarding possible surgery and whether or not he would return this season, CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reported on Tuesday that Herbert's season is over following said surgery, and Easton Stick will start for the Chargers moving forward.
"All of our focus has got to be on his future," Staley said Monday, via The Athletic. "Certainly there's nothing more important than that, than his right hand and his long-term future. He's 25 years old. He's got a really, really bright future in front of him. Every decision is going to be with that in mind."
Given the Chargers tumbling behind six teams that are 7-6 in the AFC wild card standings, it makes sense that Herbert will not play again this season. He departed late in the second quarter with the Broncos ahead 7-0. He threw for 96 yards and an interception on 9 of 17 passing. Longtime backup Easton Stick, a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Chargers, replaced Herbert to enter his second career NFL game. He is expected to start Thursday night against the division rival Las Vegas Raiders, and likely for the rest of the season.
Stick entered Sunday with one career pass attempt, a four-yard completion, in a 39-29 win in Week 7 of the 2020 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He almost gifted Denver a touchdown after appearing to be strip-sacked at the Chargers 17 by Broncos cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian. The corner scooped up the loose ball, and it ran it all the way back for a touchdown. However upon replay review, the referees ruled Stick's arm was going forward and changed the call to an incomplete pass.
Stick completed his first pass of the game to Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen for three yards. He finished with 179 yards on 13 of 24 passing. On the bright side of the Chargers, rookie first-round pick Quentin Johnson totaled a career-high 91 receiving yards on three catches.