Caretaker Quarterbacks

Last week’s USC-Ohio State game was dramatic at the end, even if it wasn’t particularly exciting to watch.  As a USC fan, it was also somewhat satisfying.  But, it also reminds me of the John David Booty season, and I’m expecting similar results.  That may change throughout the season, but right now, I’m expecting at least a couple of games where things either don’t click and another player can’t make it happen, or Barkley winds up getting rocked by a defense and the Trojans get blown out.  That said, as I watched the game with a friend of mine, some perspective is required here.  It’s kind of funny that USC fans (like me) are thinking of a “meh” season as 2 losses and a likely top-10 finish.  I was at USC in the late 90s, when USC never won more than 7 games in a season.  When Pete Carroll retires, it’ll be a national day of mourning for USC fans.

As for Matt Barkley, he may or may not become a great quarterback.  I hope he does.  Right now, he looks extremely shaky.  For almost the entire game, he simply could not make it happen, against a defense that was stacking against the run.  Ohio State basically dared Barkley to beat them, and for the most part, he couldn’t.  In the 4th quarter, he delivered some short passes to USC’s (outstanding, as always recently) WRs and RBs who turned them into good yardage.  That was great, and USC wound up winning a game they really shouldn’t have won (except for Jim Tressel’s overly conservative play-calling).  But, this was a long way off from Matt Leinart’s first start (as a sophomore) picking apart Auburn’s defense and leading the Trojans to a 23-0 win.  Granted, Leinart didn’t have gaudy numbers, but he did show something Matt Barkley hasn’t showed:  the ability to consistently complete the big pass on 3rd down, or to make a defense pay on a long play.  Matt Leinart did those things as a sophomore in his first start.  Hopefully Barkley will come along, but I think it’s unreasonable for us USC fans to be expecting that in his first season.  In short, we’re spoiled, and to paraphrase the warning from stock market companies, “past results to not indicate future successes”.  I think the media is far too convinced of Barkley’s awesomeness on the strength of just one drive (compared to 3 & 1/2 quarters of near absence) than they should be.

The start-of-the-season characterization of him as a “caretaker quarterback” is far more apt, until he proves otherwise.  USC’s last caretaker QB was John David Booty, who couldn’t get it done against a hapless UCLA team in a game that would’ve gotten USC to the BCS title game.  That’s not to say Booty was bad, nor that Barkley has been or will be.  But, a team with a caretaker QB is a world apart from having a Heisman winner like Palmer or Leinart, and expectations for this team should be set accordingly.

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