The myth of the USC quarterback

Matt Barkley.  Mark Sanchez.  John David Booty.  Matt Leinart.  Carson Palmer.

Over the past fifteen years, these are the names of the gentlemen that we, as college football fans, have been led to believe are the second coming of the next great signal caller.  These are your University of Southern California starting quarterbacks.

We’ve been told that these strapping young men could not only lead USC to their birthright – the inevitable national championship – but walk into any Los Angeles mall and bed whatever co-ed they desired.

We’ve quickly learned that bedding coeds and winning football games do not go hand in hand.

Last summer, the much heralded Matt Barkley, decided to return for his senior season at Southern Cal, wisely opting not to compete for draft status against Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.  Reporters fawned over the golden-haired California product, practically awarding him and his teammates an uncontested national championship before a single ball was snapped.  This Saturday, Barkley and company lost their fourth game of the season, this time to crosstown rival UCLA.  USC was ranked pre-season number one.  This week, they are unranked.

Barkley has now lost 12 games as USC’s starter.   That’s not quite up to USC’s standards… or is it?

In his one full season at starting quarterback in 2008, Mark Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory, taking home the game’s MVP honors.  USC did not play for a national championship that year and Sanchez quickly jumped ship to the NFL where he now struggles with the New York Jets.

Prior to Sanchez, John David Booty played nearly two full seasons as USC’s starting quarterback, losing only three games over that time.  Booty also won a Rose Bowl but is no longer playing in the NFL.

Matt Leinart shared arguably the greatest success of any Trojan quarterback.  He’s a Heisman Trophy Winner, a two-time Orange Bowl MVP, a national champion and went 37-2 as a starter over three years.  He also had the good fortune of playing with a guy named Reggie Bush.  Since being drafted in 2006, Leinart has started 18 games in the NFL.  He has thrown only four touchdown passes in the last six seasons.

Leinart’s predecessor, Carson Palmer also won a Heisman Trophy and although he led USC to an 11-2 record in his senior year, he struggled mightily his sophomore and junior seasons.  Of this, dare I say, overrated lot of quarterbacks, Palmer has had the most success in the NFL, passing for over 28,000 career yards, but considering the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the very first pick in the draft, it’s safe to say even Palmer has failed to live up the USC hype.

Palmer went first in the 2003 NFL Draft.  Leinart and Sanchez were also first round draft picks.  Booty went in the fifth round.  Barkley will soon follow in their footsteps, expected to be taken very early if not number one overall, with the ever-bright promise of leading the team that takes him to a prosperous future.

The problem is no USC quarterback before him has ever done so.

USC’s football program has put out a ridiculous amount of NFL Hall of Famers, including Ronnie Lott, OJ Simpson, Marcus Allen, Lynn Swann, Bruce Matthews, Anthony Munoz, Mark Carrier and Junior Seau.

None of these players were quarterbacks.

So why all the fuss surrounding that position?  Why are we led to believe that every kid that plays quarterback at USC is miraculously going to be the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, when in reality, they are nowhere close.

I don’t have the answer to that question.  All I can tell you is that USC is a high-profile program, with an incredibly proud tradition, yet who has recently had one coach leave under scrutiny and locked in another who has yet to prove he’s worth his weight in cardinal and gold.

Look, I went to Florida.  I suffered the ups and downs of Danny Wuerffel, Doug Johnson, Shane Matthews, Chris Leak, Rex Grossman and yes, Tim Tebow.  None of them, except for perhaps Grossman, were expected to succeed at the next level like the golden boys of USC.  Grossman was picked 22nd in the 2003 draft, Tebow 25th in 2010, all well after Palmer, Sanchez and Leinart, and most definitely later than Barkley will be selected in 2013.

Yet the hype surrounding the USC quarterback will live on.  God help us if backup freshman Max Wittek is able to knock off unbeaten Notre Dame this Saturday.

So please allow me to suggest that when we hear the next reporter boldly proclaim USC’s quarterback of the future will lead them to the Promised Land, we carry a grain of salt with us.  It’s safer to assume he’ll have greater success at the local mall.

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30 Replies to “The myth of the USC quarterback”

  1. Pingback: The myth of the USC quarterback - BallHyped Blog Network, NCAA Football | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. This was a conversation that took place between me and some of the Lug-Nuts last night about Matt Barkley’s draft status….

    Jon Robles: WHY is Matt Barkley even considered with the first overall pick?? KC would face a fan mutiny if they picked Barkley first overall. Yes, I know they need a QB in the worst way, but there’s no RG3, no Andrew Luck, and no Cam Newton in this year’s draft. IF I were KC, I’d sign a veteran free agent, and draft a QB in the later rounds. Perhaps trade down a few spots and land a stud DT and extra draft picks.

    Andy Marquis: Since we’re destined for the second or third overall pick: I’ll take Barkley over Blaine Gabbert anyday. But I think we’re destined for Collin Klein.

    Chris Humpherys: We’ll see if he drops come combine time. And how long is KC on the hook with Cassel for? And Andy, are they going to give Henne a chance after last weekend?

    Andy Marquis: Henne is starting this weekend.

    Chris Humpherys: Can’t we just get Tebow there already so he has a chance to play professionally in his home town before they move that team to Los Angeles?

    Andy Marquis: They’ll go to London before they go to LA.

    Jon Robles: I’m of the mindset that NO QB in this year’s draft class is a first round pick. Geno Smith is an early to mid-second round pick. Barkley and the Arkansas QB are mid to late second round picks. I’d try to mine some gems in the later rounds. New England proved you CAN find a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in the late rounds, a Wolverine by the name of Tom Brady.

    Andy Marquis: We’ll see. I think Chad Henne, who is a terrible quarterback, showed that Blaine Gabbert (who I think is the worst starting QB this generation) is the problem in Jacksonville.

    Chris Humpherys: Someone’s taking Barkley early, whether he’s worthy or not. That’s why it takes so long for NFL teams to recover from bad draft picks.

    Jon Robles: Unfortunately Chris, I think you’re right. And it may be Kansas City taking him first overall. They will panic and OVERREACH for Barkley.

    Chris Humpherys: At least he’s already used to losing games while wearing a red helmet

  3. When was the last time USC produced a quarterback that achieved anything of note in the NFL ? You’ve got two of them hardly propping up a p#s ass roster in Oakland , and both are Heisman Trophy winners . Another resides in Kansas , with the Chiefs (Cassel) , and he is as soft as a baby’s a#s .

    A Heisman trophy to a USC player over the past decade is like a SAG card or Emmy to an actor . . Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart spend more time giving goddamn awful performances , than contributing success to an NFL franchise . How’s Reggie doing with the ‘phins ?

    Tophatal ………….

  4. The problem is not USC quarterbacks. They’re just the product of a college football factory that attracts excellent athletes across all positions. They play a team game on a team loaded with talent so the results are usually very good…

    The problem is in the NFL’s system of determining which college QB will be good on the next level. I truly believe the NFL scouts cover their asses by gravitating to colleges running pro-style offenses. Under Robinson and Carroll the Trojans ran just that… Owners willing to gamble millions of dollars on a rookie QB rely on these “talent” scouts…

    The problem lies with the system, not USC’s QBs. The real question ought to be “How do you measure the heart of a winner?” The next question concerns how a young QB will hold up in the NFL…

    Unlike in college, in the NFL these young QBs not only play on teams loaded with talent, but they face other teams loaded with highly talented athletes too. There are monsters on defense out there ready to tear apart the opposing QB. I can’t believe the pummeling these guys go through in the NFL… Most end up shell-shocked. Remember Jim Pluckett? He was supposed to be the greatest ever and then he got ripped apart on the Patriots. It took years for him to get over it and then he QB’d the Raiders to a couple of SB wins…

    There’s only been one Brett Favre and who pegged him for greatness coming out of college?

  5. Never liked USC,like Lane Kiffin even less,but I do think Carson Palmer could have been very good if he hadn’t been injured in that playoff game against the Steelers. It seemed to deflate him in some way.

  6. Like Dwindy mentioned, I think there is something to be said for these USC QBs being surrounded (protected really) by superior talent. Guess what, it doesn’t work like that at the next level. For all intents and purposes, it’s just not like that once you enter the NFL. The real question becomes whether or not these quarterbacks can adapt to the talent around them, and also take that next step versus the superior talent they will now be facing against the opposition. I still have my doubts that Barkley will make those adjustments at the next level.

    Great read.

  7. Your list doesn’t go back nearly far enough…

    Even before Carson Palmer, there was…

    Rob Johnson
    Todd Marinovich
    Rodney Peete
    Sean Salisbury
    Vince Evans

    But to be fair, look at some of the heaps Miami (Quaterback U.) has pumped out…

    Steve Walsh
    Gino Torretta
    Craig Erickson
    Ken Dorsey

  8. Dearest readers,

    Don’t feel I’ve neglected responding to your comments.

    As always, I plan on responding, I’ve just been buried with work.

    If I don’t get back to you all in time for you to respond, I wish you all the finest of turkey meals and may you spend a blessed and grateful day with those most important to you.

  9. Al…

    While researching the piece, I’m not so sure that I found any USC quarterback, other than Carson Palmer, who has had a career that was honestly worth a damn.

    I’m waiting for rebuttal.

  10. And Al, I don’t know whether you can blame it entirely on coaching.

    Certainly Carroll left under a cloud of smoke but he hasn’t been the only USC coach to raise a quarterback.

    I guess my point was why are these USC QBs so overhyped when not a single one has made his mark on the NFL?

    I mean, I know why. I was just trying to generate some discussion.

  11. Dwin….

    But not one quarterback, other than Palmer, that’s been worth a damn for a program that’s had so much success?

    I guess the same can be said for Florida which is why I used them as a comparison.

    Honestly, which Florida quarterback has been worth a hill of beans in the NFL?

    It’s amazing these schools can still recruit at that position knowing that nobody from those programs has ever really made it.

  12. Aer…

    Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mean to make it sound that Palmer’s a slouch. He’s had a very respectable career.

    But in relation to how much hype these Trojans get, well, he’s no Tim Tebow.


    Happy Thanksgiving, brother.

  13. I thought you’d say that he would have great success with the ladies on campus.

    Though I don’t have any love for Carson Palmer, I would cut him some amount of slack in the overall analysis of him being a failure. The knee injury in the playoffs against the Steelers changed that guy’s career.

  14. Leinart’s got a career , he impregnated the starting point guard on the Trojans women’s basketball team while in college .

    Matt Cassell is making a name for himself while robbing the Chiefs blind .

    Chiefs’ based the money they then offered to Cassel , having acquired him in a trade , after the success he had , in substituting for Brady in 2008 .

    Answer me this , was there something on the ballot in Pa( Pennsylvania ) for a constitutional amendment that would legalize weed ( Kush, Mary-Jane ,marijuana) ? Eagles’ cornerbacks’ , Nnamdi Asomugha and Antonio Rodgers Cromartie have made the following claims concerning the 3-7 Eagles , _____ Rodgers Cromartie ” we are by far , the most talented team in the NFC and one of the most talented in the NFL overall ” . Damn !

    Asomugha ” We are still good enough to win the NFC , it’s the mental mistakes that have killed us” !

    WTF !! LOL,LOL,LOL !!

    Last I looked , that Eagles’ defense couldn’t stop traffic with the aid of a traffic cop , much less deal with any of the offenses in the NFL . And less we forget both Nick Foles and Michael are now making the quarterback tandem in Arizona , seem like, Montana and Steve Young .

    I’m utterly pi##ed at the moment , one of my favorite soccer teams in the UK , Chelsea , who last season , won two of the biggest competitions going , the UEFA Champions ‘ League and the FA Cup . Well , the ownership has just fired the coach/manager Roberto Di Matteo . Kinda’ puts the Mike Brown firing into real perspective . Chelsea is owned by Russian billionaire , Roman Abramovich , and he’s seen as the Premiership’s answer to the NBA’s and Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov .

    Who do you believe should conduct Selig’s investigation into Marlins’ fire sale and most recent moves ? Barney Fife , Barney Rubble , Barney Frank , Matlock , Columbo , Banacek , Barnaby Jones , Jim Rockford or even the dumbfounded FBI for that matter ?

    So Kevin Garnett is to become a mentor to rookie, Jared Sullinger ? He can become a mentor to the rookie , but in the heat of battle last season , this dumb a#s couldn’t get Rondo and Ray Allen to make peace ? What’s up with that ?

    Too early to crown their a#s ? Yes , because they suck !

    Dropped the little ditty above .

    Tophatal …………

  15. If Palmer in your eyes is worth a damn Chris , then I must be on the “kush” . What has he actually done since he’s been in the NFL ?

    He was a cancer in Cincinnati , bitched and whine . Alienated the fans and pretty much pi##ed off his teammates there with his attitude . Never mind the fact that he possesses no leadership qualities then , or now for that matter . Have you seen his play with the Raiders this season , never mind last season ?

    Tophatal ………

  16. Dub…

    I definitely could have gone back farther to include Marinovich in the conversation. He was as overhyped as any.

    But to your point on Miami’s QBs, at least they have Kosar and Kelly to call their own. USC has no one even close to that.

  17. Al…

    Buckle your seatbelt. College football realignment will continue until we get to where we want to be. The only problem is, there’s no consensus what that is.

    I was skeptical when the Chiefs signed Cassel to a deal like after his one good season in New England replacing Brady. Someone there should have known better. But then again, we are talking about the Chiefs.

    Are we still talking about the Eagles? Why even bother. I heard last night that Vick is out for the season? He’s just saving himself the misery of continuing to suck.

    And do you honestly think Selig’s going to do anything about the Miami situation? Highly doubtful.

  18. I’ve always felt that gerrymandering had a purpose ! Little did I know that some form of it , would find its way into College Football , along with the money to corrupt the sport to the point , where it’s no longer recognizable .

    Selig is now trying to empanel a group of individuals to investigate the mismanagement of the Marlins and their latest dealings . Are you up to the task of being part of that panel ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!!

    Marlins’ press releases October and November

    I believe that you could bring a great deal more input than myself ! Because the way I feel , I’d go mother-###king postal on those a##holes !

    Tophatal …………..

  19. A better way to create discussion concerning USC quarterbacks , would be to ascertain how many of them got laid in college , and their final numbers . It would carry far more credence than their accomplishments at the college or professional level (NFL).

  20. Al…

    Who’s been more disappointing than the Eagles? Oh, how about the Cowboys, Jets and Lions. All those teams came into the season with promise and none are going to even make the playoffs.

    Vick got out just in time. Think Gruden’s the next coach of the Philadelphia Eagles?

    One of my problems with conference realignment is, if you only have four power conferences of sixteen teams, then that leaves out just as many college football programs. What about them or does no one give a shit?

    And I can assure you that you’re not the only Marlins fan to feel that way.

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