“I figured that the Chargers would take a quarterback” in the NFL draft, Taylor said Friday, speaking with a group of reporters for the first time since the end of the 2019 season. “But that never necessarily changed my mindset or my attack to the year.”
With the No. 6 overall pick, the Chargers drafted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert to replace Rivers long term, though no timeline has been set for Herbert to start.
“I was drafted in the sixth round and even that day that I got drafted, I always had the mindset to prepare like a starter,” said Taylor, who is entering his 10th NFL season. “So, regardless of the circumstances, that’s how I stay mentally in it and that’s how I prepare myself mentally.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said throughout the offseason that Taylor, who served last season as Rivers’ backup, was “in the driver’s seat” to earn the starting job and confirmed earlier this week that Taylor remained in position to start.
“He hasn’t started in a couple of years and he’s going to get that opportunity this year,” Lynn said. “I think he’s gonna be just fine.”
Taylor, who turned 31 this month, is entering the final season of a two-year, $11-million contract.
When asked Friday whether he felt a duty to help groom the younger quarterbacks, particularly Herbert, Taylor said his focus was “to go out and prepare myself for a season.”
“At the same time, I’m not hiding any information,” Taylor said. “It’s an open conversation amongst all of us.”
Since the Baltimore Ravens selected Taylor in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, he has played for four teams, serving mostly as a backup.
However, Taylor started three seasons for the Buffalo Bills, including two seasons that coincided with Lynn’s time as an assistant and offensive coordinator in 2016.
“He’s a pro and he’s an exciting quarterback,” Lynn said about Taylor, who led the Bills to a 2017 playoff appearance. “He understands the concept and philosophy of taking care of the football and not losing games, so we’re excited to see what he can do.”
In three seasons with the Bills, Taylor completed 62.6 percent of his passes and threw 51 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions.
But after the 2017 season, during which Taylor was temporarily benched in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman, the Bills traded Taylor to the Cleveland Browns, where he faced a situation similar to the one he’s been placed in this season.
Following Taylor’s acquisition, the Browns selected quarterback Baker Mayfield with the top overall draft pick.
Taylor earned the starting role out of training camp, but was sidelined in Week 3 because of a concussion. The Browns inserted Mayfield, who led the Browns to their first victory since 2016, and the rookie supplanted Taylor as starter.
As Taylor prepares again to fend off a young quarterback, he says he learned from his experience in Cleveland.
“A lot of things that happened in Cleveland was out of my control, but I never changed my attitude towards what I can do and towards the team,” Taylor said. “Moving forward to this one, whether it’s viewed as the same circumstances, I focus on what I can control, and that’s me bringing my ‘A’ game each and every day, being a leader and bringing great energy towards the building.”