While eating breakfast one morning, I was browsing the sports news and noticed an article by ESPN sportswriter Brock Huard, who names the University of Southern California as Quarterback U. This title is given to the university which has developed the most number of successful NFL quarterbacks. Up until this time, I did not believe choking on one’s soggy corn flakes was possible, as I did after reading this.
Seeing that I could not recall too many NFL signal callers from Quarterback U who have achieved and sustained much success, the matter required further investigation. To achieve this title, certainly there must be at least a handful of quarterbacks from USC who attained consistent success in the NFL.
Looking back, I should have not questioned the article and accepted the information provided as valid. Hey, it is USC afterall, of course they have had great NFL quarterbacks. Upon digging further to validate this assertion, things would start to get ugly rather quickly. No turning back now.
In the past twenty years, there have been four USC quarterbacks selected as first rounders in the NFL Draft. These players are Todd Marinovich (1991), Carson Palmer (2003), Matt Leinart (2006) and Mark Sanchez (2009). Certainly, one or two of these guys has established himself a big time quarterback. Well, let’s have a closer look.
What can one say about Marinovich which hasn’t already been said? He was engineered for success from day one and was looked upon as a can’t miss. After two seasons of ineffective play and substance abuse issues, Marinovich was out of the league. Next.
We will bypass Palmer for the time being and take a look at Leinart, who is currently with the Oakland Raiders in his seventh year in the league. In the past six seasons, Leinart has thrown only 231 passes due to injuries. Although he has lasted longer in the league than Marinovich, he has had found little playing time and even less success. Two first rounders down.
Next under the microscope is Sanchez. After a promising first two seasons, Sanchez hit a wall in his third season and his struggles continue this season. Sanchez has made more rookie mistakes in the past two seasons than he did in his first two – and the numbers reflect it. He is currently last in the league in completion percentage and near the bottom in other categories. Many would say he has regressed in his development and the play of his team (NY Jets) reflects it.
Finally, we get to Carson Palmer, the overall #1 pick in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Of the four, Palmer has been the most successful of the group with a rather respectable career quarterback rating of 86.3. But that is where his success comes to an abrupt halt. Palmer is winless in two NFL playoff games.
In his first postseason game after the 2005 season, Palmer was injured early in the game and replaced. The Bengals ended up losing 31-17 to the Steelers. In his second playoff appearance after the 2009 season, Palmer had an awful 58.3 rating, as Cincinnati was defeated by guess who? Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets. Ouch!
Alright, so the first rounders have had a difficult time maintaining success and consistency in the league. There must be some USC quarterbacks in the NFL who were drafted in the later rounds and did manage to find success. Not all top notch NFL quarterbacks are drafted in the first round.
Sadly, the remainder of the list is filled with career backup journeyman and spot starters who failed to make any lasting impression. Players such as Vince Evans, Rodney Peete, Pat Haden, Paul McDonald, Mike Rae, Sean Salisbury and Matt Cassel are hardly household names. Evans and Peete played 15 years in the league, but they failed to distinguish themselves on a consistent basis, rarely playing full seasons.
So there you have it, Quarterback U in a nutshell. If these quarterbacks as a group are considered successful, I would hate to see what the flops look like.
The current Trojan phenom quarterback is senior Matt Barkley. It remains to be seen if the past NFL failures of other USC alumni will have an impact as to how high he is picked in the 2013 NFL Draft. One thing is for sure: being from Quarterback U and a first round pick is little guarantee for success in the NFL.