Will Matt Barkley be a Bust Because He Went to USC?
Oh, the common chatter that surrounds the NFL Draft and it’s prospects. I feel inserting my comments on a message board or forum just won’t do Matt Barkley justice.
Naturally, I’m talking about all of the whispers floating around that Barkley is in danger of being the “next” quarterback from USC to hit the NFL as a bust. As if there’s this long line of recent NFL casualties that hail from USC.
Let’s be real. There is one guy, and we’re talking about Mark Sanchez. But even Sanchez is an interesting situation. After all, his 2011 season actually saw him produce solid stats, and his first two NFL seasons had him playing for a shot at the Super Bowl. That’s right, the USC “bust” has two AFC title game appearances under his belt.
True, Sanchez has been absolutely terrible the past two seasons, but it’s not like he’s done nothing in the NFL. But if you want to call him a bust, I won’t fight you on it.
Matt Cassel and Carson Palmer, however, are two very different stories. And so is Barkley.
First off, Cassel was a seventh round draft pick. I know the exact definition of “bust” changes per person, but I’m pretty sure no one in their right mind can associate a seventh rounder with being a bust. Go talk to all the Mr. Irrelevant’s of the many drafts, and I’m sure you find yourself in agreement. Being a seventh round pick doesn’t guarantee you anything. Not a starting spot, a job, or any kind of hype.
Cassel was picked in the final round of the 2005 NFL Draft and he was chosen to be a backup to Tom Brady, if that, and nothing else. As fate would have it, he stuck around long enough to see Tom Brady go down in week one of the 2008 season. With outstanding coaching and elite offensive weapons, Cassel had a very solid season as the starter of 15 games, and led the Pats to an 11-5 record.
That solid play awarded him a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs the following year, where he produced an initial season with mixed results, and then got KC to the playoffs behind a stellar season in 2010. Since then he’s dropped off and is no longer considered a starting caliber quarterback.
But a bust, he is not. The guy was never even supposed to be a starter, and he became just that for five straight seasons. If anything, he completely exceeded his draft slot, and probably did more than even Bill Belichick ever truly dreamed he could.
Palmer is a different story. He was an extremely high draft pick – the #1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, in fact. So, unlike Cassel, a horrible career following being selected that high could very easily earn a bust label.
Unfortunately, Palmer’s career doesn’t warrant a label like that. Palmer has a so-so rookie season, and then followed it up with an elite season in 2005 (32 touchdowns) and went on to top 4,000+ passing yards and at least 26 touchdowns in each of the following two seasons.
In fact, in 2005, he helped get the Bengals back to the playoffs for the first time in quite a while. He wouldn’t have much luck, though, as he took a Tom Brady-esque hit to the knee on the first offensive play for Cincinnati (a 66-yard completion, mind you), and was knocked out of the playoffs.
He still came back and was very good the next year, and respectable the year after that before having his 2008 season robbed by a torn muscle in his throwing arm. He wasn’t really the same in Cincinnati after that, but still put up solid numbers in his final two years with the Bengals.
Two years ago the Raiders traded for him (usually teams don’t trade for busts), and he almost got them to the playoffs behind 2,753 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 10 games. Last year Oakland dropped off considerably, but not really because of Palmer. In fact, despite a rash of injuries on offense and a terrible defense “supporting” him, Palmer managed to top 4,000 yards passing, while throwing 22 touchdowns to just 14 picks.
Nine seasons into his career, Palmer is still regarded as a very solid NFL starter, has 189 passing scores and nearly 30,000 yards to his name, and most would agree he still has quality arm strength. The Raiders aren’t a very good team and are stuck in rebuilding mode, but calling Palmer a bust for their woes or for his days on soft Cincinnati teams, well, it just isn’t fair. And it’s just not true.
Matt Barkley will end up making his own career – whatever that ends up becoming. But suggesting he’s just another USC bust is nothing short of a joke. After all, one look at the most recent USC quarterbacks suggests that only one truly lives up to being a bust by most standards.
Unlike Sanchez, Barkley is more accurate and more poised in the pocket. He also didn’t jet after just one year as a starter, and has tons of experience under his belt.
He’ll face questions about arm strength, size and athleticism – as he probably should. But whether or not he might be a bust shouldn’t have anything to do with the school he went to.