WATCH: Jets' Sam Darnold will shatter stereotype of overrated USC quarterbacks
When Sam Darnold was selected by the New York Jets third overall in 2018, the pick was met with glowing praise. Gang Green finally had their franchise quarterback. Darnold is going to raise the Jets out of the basement of the AFC East and bring them into contention.
However, there was something oddly familiar about this pick, almost like the Jets did this before. In fact, they did. Nine years prior, the Jets drafted another quarterback out of USC, the recently retired Mark Sanchez, hoping that he could be the franchise quarterback.
Darnold's scouting report was almost identical to Sanchez's. Threw a lot of touchdowns, but also a concerning amount of interceptions.
Sanchez started out well in New York, taking the Jets to two straight AFC Championship games. However, his career began to decline right after.
Sanchez lasted only two more years on Broadway. He then played four more seasons, two with the Philadelphia Eagles, one with the Dallas Cowboys, and one with the Washington Redskins, even sitting out the 2017 season. Sanchez decided to hang up his cleats for good this summer.
However, Sanchez is not the only USC quarterback to not transition well to the NFL. In fact, it's quite common to see Trojan quarterbacks struggle once they reach the pros.
Such examples include Matt Leinart. In 2004, not only did Leinart lead USC to a National Championship but he won the Heisman Trophy in the process. In three seasons as a Trojan, Leinart's completion percentage was 64.8 percent, along with 10,963 yards and 99 touchdowns to 23 interceptions. These numbers impressed the Arizona Cardinals enough to draft him 10th overall in 2006.
Once Leinart reached the pros, the decline began. In four years in Arizona, his completion percentage was 57.1 percent, throwing only 15 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. After his stint in Arizona, he sat out a year, only to return to Houston and Oakland for two more years before hanging it up.
Another recent example is Matt Barkley. Though Barkley led the Buffalo Bills to a convincing 41-10 victory against Gang Green last season, he still hasn't consistently put up the same numbers that made him great at USC.
As a Trojan, Barkley's completion percentage was 64.1 percent with 12,327 yards and 116 touchdowns to 48 interceptions. In 2013, the Eagles selected him in the fourth round. Over four years, Barkley has played in 12 games, throwing for 2,143 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions.
Perhaps the best quarterback to ever come out of USC so far is Carson Palmer. Over the course of his 14-year career, Palmer had a 62.5 percent completion percentage, throwing for 46,247 yards, 294 touchdowns, and 187 interceptions.
Other than interceptions being a little disproportionate, Palmer had a decent career. But he only won one playoff game, as a member of the Arizona Cardinals when Larry Fitzgerald went ballistic in overtime against the Green Bay Packers in 2016.
Maybe he could have had more if not for his injury in the Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.
Palmer retired in 2018.
So with the exception of Palmer, USC quarterbacks have not transitioned well to the pros.
But Darnold can potentially change the way football fans look at Trojan quarterbacks heading to the NFL. Judging by the way he finished last season and his performance this preseason, Darnold is ready to break the stereotype that USC quarterbacks can't make it in the NFL.
Darnold struggled out the gates in his first nine games, throwing for a 55 percent completion percentage, 1,934 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. However, after suffering a foot injury that sidelined him until December, Darnold came back a new man.
In his final four games of 2018, Darnold threw for a 64 percent completion percentage, 931 yards, with six touchdowns and limiting interceptions to just one.
This preseason, Darnold led the Jets to two touchdowns on three of their opening drives. The one opening drive that didn't end with a touchdown ended when Ty Montgomery fumbled the ball against the New Orleans Saints. Darnold threw for 211 yards, two touchdown passes, no interceptions, and a 68 percent completion percentage.
It looks like Darnold is on the right track to shatter expectations of those skeptical of USC QBs. If he continues to build off his solid play and the Jets keep the right pieces around him, he will do it sooner rather than later.