The NFL draft has been the friend of the Trojans in recent years.
USC has not shied away from making the draft a major recruiting tool.
And why should they?
The saying has been, USC is the NFL team in L.A.
We loved the glitz...We loved the excellence...and we loved to brag about our NFL first round draft picks.
Every year we had a Sports Illustrated cover suitable for framing.
Consider the 2009 edition of the draft.
There was Mark Sanchez who went No. 5 to the Jets.
It was Pete Carroll's worst Trojan moment.
It was Mark Sanchez's best career decision.
Many Trojan fans thought Sanchez was more concerned about where he would place in the 2010 quarterback lineup than anything else. So, he bailed early.
Sanchez made a great career call.
Any way you look at the Sanchez issue, it turned out to be his best decision.
However, it also turned out to be the beginning of a rocky season that few Cardinal and Gold faithful could have predicted.
In truth, it was the beginning of the end for the 2009 team and as it turned out, the Pete Carroll era as well.
Next in the 2009 draft, the Texans nab linebacker star Brian Cushing and the Packers selected Clay Matthews at No. 26 to round out a great 2009 NFL draft first round for the Trojans.
Indeed as it turned out, the 2009 draft was the final chapter in sustained Trojan excellence that few college football fans have ever witnessed.
Those of us who attended games during the subsequent 2009 season were shocked to see so much mediocrity.
And so soon!
Was that really Taylor Mays who was constantly late on hits?
What the heck happened to the defense?
Was that USC who was manhandled physically by, uh, the Stanford Cardinal?
Was that Joe McKnight who wanted to be Reggie Bush but produced along the lines of George Bush?
Talk about over-hyped and very overrated. You can spell overrated J-O-E.
It turns out the NFL agrees.
Was that Damien Williams the Trojan 2009 stud who would have been a simple third string possession receiver on any Matt Leinart or John David Booty led team?
Williams was an excellent player but symptomatic of the plummeting fortunes of our former studs.
Can you say No. 77 to the Titans?
The fall of our Trojan heroes was hard to stomach.
We had to know that these great players were falling in the NFL draft faster than Barack Obama's healthcare plan approval rating.
Just watch how they played last year.
The last few drafts were predictable if not pleasant.
To be sure, the rest of the football world was thrilled to see it.
Most USC fans could not believe it.
Pete Carroll was the Trojan 2010 NFL draft class's biggest supporter.
We remember Coach Carroll thanking Taylor Mays for staying in school.
Carroll accurately predicted that Mays was a certain first round pick, probably in the top 15.
Then we saw the inexplicable drop off and Carroll proved it on Thursday by choosing a Longhorn Earl Thomas over Taylor Mays the "greatest defensive talent" most of us had ever seen.
If your biggest cheerleader (Pete Carroll) goes for talent from the team that robbed you of your "three-peat" (Texas) then you know you have troubles.
Carroll commented on a very troubled Taylor Mays today.
"We really were looking forward to picking Taylor. We thought we would get the chance to do that in the first round. But we were surprised when Earl Thomas showed up, we really coveted him as an all-around cover guy who could play safety or corner. And so when we made the pick, we felt fortunate to get Earl, but we were really hoping that we were gonna get a chance to get him [Taylor], but unfortunately we didn't."
Thanks for the advice to stay in school coach. Can I have some of your millions?
Then there is Joe McKnight.
Joe was supposed to be Reggie minus that dumb Rose Bowl lateral.
Pete was angry with the USC administration that he couldn't play in the Emerald Bowl for the Trojans, but apparently Carroll was not a big enough fan to pick him in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
So, why was it that Joe left early? Was it so he could be a non-roster invitee? He'd better hope not.
To be sure, the Trojan love for Pete Carroll remains strong.
But the NFL draft speaks louder than words.
Could it be that the constant turnover of Pete Carroll's staff truly caught up with the Trojans?
The first major exit was stormin' Norm Chow.
USC fans have been trying to talk Norm Chow into ditching the Bruins and returning home for three years now.
What would Norm have done with Joe McKnight?
For that matter, how about Lane Kiffin?
All of these players mentioned were high five-star or four-star recruits.
You've got to think Monte Kiffin was one year too late for Taylor Mays.
Great coaching staffs develop great high school players into great college players.
Until the 2010 NFL draft, Pete Carroll and the Trojans were always big players.
This year a Bruin was drafted before any Trojans. Need we say more?
Thankfully, painful events can turn out to be a blessing.
We hate to see Pete go, but we hate even more the reality we see.
There is a new sheriff in town and it is clear there is much work to be done.
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