I’m pretty sure someday when Sam Darnold is an old man and needs money that the name of his autobiography will be “Doomed to be a Brown.” It would be a story of low-lows and middle of the road mediocrity. You want a good current example? I think Darnold’s current career projection would be something comparable to a guy like Andy Dalton or fellow USC alum Carson Palmer.
Before we really begin here let me say that I’m not throwing shade at USC or their quarterback system/program. I’m just presenting the facts as we know and see them. I’m not saying Darnold will be a spectacular failure, there’s just no way of knowing that right now. However, if patterns in life or sports have taught us anything it is: We should already know what to expect from former USC quarterbacks in the NFL.
For Sam Darnold the sky is the limit. If you look at the pool of quarterbacks in his draft class he is definitely near the top, but there’s one glaring problem. That is: Darnold is a USC quarterback. Sure, there are plenty of high profile colleges that have had superstar quarterbacks that flamed out in the NFL, but non-more high profile than USC.
The University of Southern California has a seemingly endless list of players that had amazing careers while in the heart of Los Angeles. USC holds the distinctions of having the most NFL Hall of Famers at 12. Former Trojan players have been selected to a Pro Bowl 228 times and a former Trojan have appeared in all but 5 Super Bowls. There have been 3 former Trojans that were Super Bowl MVP’s: Lynn Swann in 1976, Marcus Allen in 1984, and Malcolm Smith in 2014.
Here’s the thing: Name me a famous, successful former USC quarterback. I gave you Carson Palmer, he may never have won a playoff game, but he had the long 14 year career in the NFL. There are 3 former Trojans tied for longest NFL tenure each at 15 seasons: Rudy Bukich (1953-1968), Vince Evans (1977-1995), and Rodney Peete (1989-2004).
Can you name a second former Trojan QB that had a highly or even moderately successful NFL career? Is the only one you can name me rhyme with “Sark Manchez?” Does he even count?
Here’s a list of former USC quarterbacks that got drafted since 1988. That seems like a good 30 year sample size.
(Year Drafted – Player Name: Team – Round, Pick)
1989 – Rodney Peete: Detroit Lions – Round 6, Pick 141
1991 – Pat O’Hara: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Round 10, Pick 260
1995 – Rob Johnson: Jacksonville Jaguars – Round 4, Pick 99
1996 – Kyle Wachholtz: Green Bay Packers – Round 7, Pick 240
2003 – Carson Palmer: Cincinnati Bengals – Round 1, Pick 1
2005 – Matt Cassel: New England Patriots – Round 7, Pick 230
2006 – Matt Leinart: Arizona Cardinals – Round 1, Pick 10
2008 – John David Booty: Minnesota Vikings – Round 5, Pick 137
2009 – Mark Sanchez: New York Jets – Round 1, Pick 5
2013 – Matt Barkley: Philadelphia Eagles – Round 4, Pick 98
2016 – Cody Kessler: Cleveland Browns – Round 3, Pick 93
Any and all success in the NFL is measured by championships or playoff wins. Well, only 4 of those quarterbacks have been to the playoffs. Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer, Matt Cassell, and Mark Sanchez. What is the playoff record for those guys have combined? 6-7. Almost .500!
The real surprise is that Mark Sanchez accounts for 4 of those wins and only 2 losses. BOOM! MIND BLOWN!! Yeah, those wins and losses came in 2009 and 2010, but still. Mark Sanchez counts! I guess.
So, where does Sam Darnold fit into all of this? Why will his autobiography be called “Doomed to be a Brown”? Simple, he’s a quarterback who is going to be drafted by the Browns.
Why will he be drafted by the Browns? Hue Jackson is a USC guy. He’s from Los Angeles and was the USC Offensive Coordinator from 1997-2000. Then, from 2004-2006 he was the Wide Receivers Coach with the Cincinnati Bengals…where Carson Palmer was the quarterback, coincidentally. Naturally, not every position he has held contains a USC connection, but it’s fun to point out.
I don’t know Hue Jackson, but I have a feeling he won’t be able to stop himself by demanding to draft Darnold #1. Cleveland is on the rise, offensively at least. They recently traded away fellow Trojan Cody Kessler to Jacksonville, opening up a QB spot. Not that they needed to open a spot for a QB. I mean everyone already knew they were going to pick one.
Darnold holds all the tangibles and talents that make him desirable to NFL teams. Cleveland has 5 picks in the first 2 rounds. Good luck and Godspeed to Darnold and the Browns. The fans in Cleveland deserve a winner or at least a team in the playoffs. Fortunately, for Darnold when he wins his first game he’ll already be a keeper in the eyes of the fans.