Mark Sanchez is headed to the NFL, and Pete Carroll can't do anything about it.
No one can blame Carroll for trying. By his own admission, he stayed up through the early hours of the morning trying the convince Sanchez to return for one more season.
Many are blaming Carroll for the way he handled the aftermath. While no coach would privately be happy when his starting quarterback declares early for the NFL draft, most coaches at least appear supportive at the press conference.
Carroll's displeasure was written all over his body language. While I think that Carroll could have handled the Mark Sanchez press conference better than he did, I can understand why.
Since Carroll arrived on USC's campus in 2001, the Trojans have carried on a tradition of good quarterback play.
Carson Palmer: Heisman Trophy winner. Orange Bowl champion.
Matt Leinart: Heisman Trophy winner. Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl champion. Won the AP national championship in 2003 and consensus national championship in 2004.
John David Booty: Two-time Rose Bowl champion.
Mark Sanchez: Rose Bowl champion.
Who will take over at quarterback for USC? The prevailing answer is Mitch Mustain. While Mustain was 8-0 as a starter for Arkansas, many of those wins came despite Mustain's play and not because of it.
Of those eight wins in 2006, Mustain beat juggernauts Utah State, Vanderbilt, Southeast Missouri State, and Louisiana-Monroe. He had the benefit of having Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in his backfield.
Against South Carolina, one of those victories for which Mustain is credited, he threw one pass. It was intercepted. He was pulled in favor of Casey Dick.
He completed less than half his passes in half of his starts.
Mustain did beat Alabama. Of course Alabama went 6-7 (2-6 SEC) that season. By the way, Mustain threw three interceptions in that game.
USC is loaded with talent. Talent alone won't win you big ball games. You need at least steady quarterback play to win.
As an LSU fan, I have learned this lesson.
LSU had sustained greatness during the same era as did USC. From 2001 to 2007, LSU won two national titles and two other BCS bowl games.
LSU was able to sustain their greatness because of quarterbacks Rohan Davey, Matt Mauck, JaMarcus Russell, and Matt Flynn.
LSU fell to 8-5 this season because of terrible quarterback play. Barring injury or scrub minutes, pick six machine Jarrett Lee will never see the field again in a Tiger uniform.
Part of LSU's problem was also defense. USC shouldn't have that problem.
I don't think that USC will fall as much as LSU fell this season, but I think 2009 will be USC's toughest season since Carroll arrived on campus. They will fall from grace even if it's just for one season.