November 16, 2012

The Myth of the USC Quarterback

By - Keith Smith

(Somewhere in the woods of Southern California)

**In a hushed whisper** Sssssshhhhhh!!! We're out here tracking one of the more elusive creatures known to man. There have been many reported sightings of him around these parts, but it's becoming more myth and legend than any known reality.

No, we aren't searching for Bigfoot. Not even the feared Chupacabra. Instead, we are looking for something that may be even more rare. We are in search of a USC quarterback that might one day make the kind of impact in the NFL that their college career suggests.

Photo by: Getty Images
In recent years, there have been tales of Mark Sanchez becoming the next Joe Montana (how's that one working out for you, Jets fans?). Prior to that, there was the feared John David Booty (too bad he wasn't into baseball, he would've been a perfect fit for the Pirates). Before those two tall tales were spun, there were the Heisman Twins, Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer. And a generation ago (22 years to be exact), there was talk of RoboQB, Todd Marinovich, whose father had been programming since birth to be the second coming of Johnny Unitas (epic fail).

Of those, only Palmer has had modest success in the NFL. To find one with any staying power in the pros, you have to delve 25 years into the past to find Rodney Peete, who stayed in the league for 15 years. And let's face it, with a lifetime QB rating of 73.3, and 76 career touchdowns to 92 picks, don't expect Canton to come calling.

Now there's talk of the next great mythical beast coming out of Southern California, Matt Barkley. Before this, his senior season, USC was favored to unseat the SEC in the BCS National Championship, he was the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and a sure top 5 draft pick in next year's NFL Draft.

But alas, like the tales of the other mythical creature sightings, this too seems to be a bit far-fetched.

Barkley isn't having a horrible season (226-349 for 2,972 yards, 33 TDs and 13 INTs), but even he would tell you it's been a disappointment compared to what was expected, and especially compared to his junior year. He already has almost twice as many interceptions, and the Trojans are a dismal 7-3 on the season.

So what happens when these sure-fire superstar quarterbacks move on to the next level? Why are they so hard to find in the wild?

It's probably a case-by-case scenario.

Sanchez left after his junior year, with only 16 starts under his belt in the NCAA. It is safe to say he could have benefited from another year with then-coach Pete Carroll (now the head man with the Seattle Seahawks).

Booty was drafted and hung around for a couple of years, but his skill set didn't match up with league standards, playing on 3 teams in 3 years as a backup the whole time.

Leinart was too Hollywood even for Hollywood. His tales of late-night hot tub parties are still legendary, mostly for the Hollywood starlet's names that were associated with them. His mind was never really on football (and let's be serious, if there were that many beautiful girls willing to jump into a hot tub with any man, no work would ever get done).

As I said, Carson Palmer has had the most success in recent years, currently serving as the starting quarterback in Oakland. His first few years were excellent, playing in a couple of Pro Bowls (even being named the MVP of that game in 2006). He turned around a horrible Cincinnati Bengals franchise, leading them to their first winning season in 15 years back in 2005. In their first playoff game in years, on the first pass of the contest, Palmer completed a 66-yard bomb (longest in Bengals playoff history), but took a horrific shot to the knee, tearing multiple ligaments and cartilage. He made an amazing comeback after surgery in January of 2006, making it back that fall as the starting QB, being selected to the Pro Bowl and being named MVP of the game. Everyone thought the best was yet to come.

But somehow, the following year, the Bengals went in the tank, and so did Palmer's career. He's never been the same since.

So what of these legendary mythical creature, the USC QB? Will there ever be another sighting of one that makes an impact in the NFL? Is the fact that they play in the second-largest city in the country, on a team always filled with excessive hype, the reason for the growing myth?

Keep your cameras handy, fans, in hopes of one day soon stumbling across one of these great beasts.


  1. USC = most overhyped college football team year in and year out.

  2. Part of the problem is all these guys were drafted high and went to bad teams. This kinda thing doesn't happen with JUST USC though. Lots of big name schools have quarterbacks that go on to struggle in the pros because they end up on bad teams due to being drafted so highly. When was the last time a Florida or Notre Dame QB tore it up in the NFL? Guys from smaller schools are taken in later rounds and are given more of a chance to sit and develop rather then just being thrown to the wolves right off the bat.

  3. I would agree about Florida's QB's, but they've been mostly system QB's, only succeeding in college due to the offense they were running. And Notre Dame hasn't had a QB very highly touted come out of there lately.

  4. I bet anything Barkley stinks in the NFL too.