The Chargers have a quarterback whose most recent postseason game was the Rose Bowl.
They have a head coach who owns just a single playoff victory — as an NFL assistant.
They represent a franchise that hasn’t played this deep into January in four years, only six players still around from that team.
All of which “doesn’t matter,” according to the man among them who has appeared in the most NFL postseason games.
“Playoff experience doesn’t mean anything to be honest,” Kyle Van Noy said. “But everybody likes to talk about it this time of year. Look at the Bengals last season. Their coach, their quarterback had no experience, either.”
Indeed, Zac Taylor and Joe Burrow were postseason rookies 12 months ago when Cincinnati began its run to Super Bowl LVI, which the Bengals lost to the Rams.
Van Noy has played in three Super Bowls — all with New England — and won two of them. Saturday when the Chargers visit Jacksonville on wild-card weekend he’ll appear in his 13th playoff game.
“There are guys who have lots of experience who made bonehead plays in the playoffs,” Van Noy said. “So their experience didn’t work in that particular situation, right?”
In three years with the Chargers, quarterback Justin Herbert has started 49 games, and one of them couldn’t have been much closer to happening in the playoffs.
The Chargers lost on the final Sunday of the 2021 regular season at Las Vegas when a win or tie would have advanced them to the postseason.
Herbert threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns that night, leading the Chargers on an absurd, fourth-down-converting, logic-defying touchdown drive in the closing minutes to force overtime.
So, yes, he hasn’t actually been in the postseason since guiding Oregon to a late Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin on Jan. 1, 2020, but Herbert has been NFL playoff adjacent.
“He is a big-time player,” Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “Usually, those guys shine brightest in the big lights. I think he will be fine.”
Head coach Brandon Staley will be returning to the playoffs for the first time since losing at Green Bay as the Rams defensive coordinator in the divisional round in January 2021.
Back then, Staley was working for Sean McVay. Three years earlier, McVay had made his postseason debut as a head coach, his Rams losing at home as NFC West champions to Atlanta.
Playoff introductions can be sobering in the NFL, just one of the things Staley was asked about this week as he prepared for his biggest game as a head coach.
“They are all the most important games in the world to me,” he said. “That is the only way that I have ever known to compete, and that’s what I have tried to bring to this team.”
The Chargers’ most recent playoff appearance came after the 2018 season when they won at Baltimore on wild-card weekend before losing at New England.
Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Derwin James Jr., Mike Williams and Michael Davis are the holdovers from that team. Four years later, they’re back after going 21-28 over three seasons and enduring a coaching change.
“We obviously know what’s up,” Ekeler said. “Our season’s on the line. But we need to stay mentally locked in. That means just bringing it back to it being a game.”
In his first season with the Chargers, Van Noy has emerged as a locker room leader, organizing players-only meetings and sharing wisdom with his teammates on everything from blitzing quarterbacks to raising children.
James was talking recently about the 31-year-old Van Noy when he stopped just short of calling him “Grandpa Kyle.” James laughed and said, “I’m going to call him Uncle Kyle.”
Van Noy and fellow linebacker Drue Tranquill were in the hot tub this week when Van Noy mentioned that his teams have made the playoffs in seven of his nine seasons.
Tranquill, in his fourth year, is about to make his postseason debut. He was told of Van Noy’s reference to Cincinnati’s lacking experience last season.
“The Bengals case study is a great one to look at,” Tranquill said. “Joe Burrow didn’t have any experience in the playoffs. A lot of those guys didn’t. The Bengals haven’t been lighting it up for the past decade.
“If we just stay level-headed and steady and play our brand of football, experience no longer matters. The game of football doesn’t change because now it’s the postseason.”
The game’s the same, only the stakes are higher. No playoff experience is required to understand that much.
Williams did not practice Wednesday as he continues to deal with a back injury suffered Sunday in a loss at Denver. Staley has said repeatedly that Williams would practice at some point this week. … The Chargers’ final full workout is Thursday at their Costa Mesa training facility. They are scheduled to travel to Jacksonville on Friday morning.