Sorry SoCal story: Abysmal run of QBs from region has NFL personnel searching for answers

Jason Cole

As news spread over the weekend that USC quarterback Matt Barkley would not throw at the NFL scouting combine this week, two NFL personnel men had a similar, withering reaction. 

"Here we go again, another L.A. movie star quarterback who needs his own day to throw," a veteran scout said, the sarcasm splashing from his mouth like a wave hitting a seawall.

"And you wonder why guys from Southern California [are bad]?" a veteran team executive said, referring as much to the region as to Barkley's alma mater. "Everything is like they have to draw attention to themselves."

When it was pointed out to the executive that Barkley supposedly hasn't been cleared to throw by doctors, the anger only seemed to grow, not subside.

"I'm telling you, it's always [something] with guys from down there… not just USC, the whole area. I don't know what it is."

[Also: Quarterback Matt Barkley won't throw at combine]

Whatever it is, the concern about quarterbacks who have come out of everywhere from Santa Barbara to San Diego is nearly 30 years of failure at the NFL level. This year will mark 30 years since John Elway, a graduate of Granada Hills High in the San Fernando Valley, was drafted No. 1 overall.

A look at QBs with SoCal roots who were drafted in the first four rounds
Player Round
SoCal area
Jimmy Clausen ('10) 2nd Westlake Village
Mark Sanchez ('09) 1st Mission Viejo
Kevin O'Connell ('08) 3rd Carlsbad
Matt Leinart ('06) 1st Santa Ana
Alex Smith ('05) 1st La Mesa
J.P. Losman ('04) 1st Los Angeles
Carson Palmer ('03) 1st Rancho Santa Margarita
Kyle Boller ('03) 1st Santa Clarita
Akili Smith ('99) 1st San Diego
Pat Barnes ('97) 4th Mission Viejo
Tony Banks ('96) 2nd San Diego
Rob Johnson ('95) 4th Lake Forest
Chad May ('95) 4th La Verne
Steve Stenstrom ('95) 4th Lake Forest
Perry Klein ('94) 4th Los Angeles
Jeff Carlson ('89) 4th Garden Grove
Dan McGwire ('91) 1st Claremont
Todd Marinovich ('91) 1st Santa Ana
Jeff Carlson ('89) 4th Garden Grove
Steve Beuerlein ('87) 4th Anaheim
Randall Cunningham ('85) 2nd Santa Barbara
Jay Schroeder ('84) 3rd Los Angeles

Since Elway (and even fellow Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon of Hamilton High in Los Angeles before him), the quarterbacks from that region have been little more than a series of flops. While Carson Palmer, Alex Smith and Randall Cunningham have had solid careers in the pros, they are the best of an otherwise sad group.

Overall, 21 quarterbacks who grew up in Southern California have been drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL draft dating to 1984. That's out of a total of 178 quarterbacks selected in either the regular draft or the supplemental draft during that time. In other words, SoCal quarterbacks represent nearly 12 percent of the quarterbacks selected in that time. Moreover, of the 67 quarterbacks selected in the first round since 1984, nine (13 percent) are SoCal boys.

Not one of the 21 has so much as led his team to a Super Bowl. Even worse, the failures have been staggering, including the likes of Matt Leinart, Kyle Boller, J.P. Losman, Akili Smith, Dan McGwire and show-stopper Todd Marinovich. That list doesn't include Mark Sanchez, who has regressed the past two years with the New York Jets after helping them get to back-to-back AFC Championship games.

"You ask me and it's the decline of the Los Angeles City programs," said Moon, who played at Hamilton in the 1970s. "Between budget cuts and lack of equipment and all the other things, they just can't offer the same kind of quality program that we had back when I was [playing in the area]. You have to have development and focus to produce really skill position players like quarterbacks. That doesn't happen. I see it." Moon sees it because he still helps old friend Paul Knox, who has been the head coach at Dorsey High in the Los Angeles area since 1985. Moon is slightly younger than Knox, who also went to Hamilton, and raises money and gets equipment donations to help with the Dorsey program. To Knox, the lack of success of SoCal quarterbacks is sobering.

"When you think about it that way, it's pretty stunning," Knox said. "We have the seven-on-seven leagues. We have the talent. If you're recruiting from the Pac-12 or the Mountain West, you're still coming here to get players.

"I would say that the talent is dispersed and most of the programs aren't what they were, at least not in [Los Angeles]. But even out in the suburbs, you get Mater Dei and some of those programs, those are good programs. I really can't explain it."

[Also: Manti Te'o, quarterbacks can't falter at NFL scouting combine]

Others, including NFL personnel, have plenty of theories, particularly when it comes to guys from USC.

"When you start at USC, it's like you've already made the big time," a team executive said. "You're a star. You're in the news all the time. It's like, 'Oh yeah, I'll be in the NFL in a couple of years, don't worry about it.' That's not how you make it in this league." 

Knox echoed that sentiment, saying: "USC has been like our NFL team even since the NFL left, especially when Pete Carroll was here. If you're the quarterback there, you've arrived." That sense of entitlement has manifested itself in different ways. With Leinart, there was a sense among people who were with him after he was drafted by Arizona that he was always wanting to be in Los Angeles, not with the Cardinals working on his game.

With Sanchez, his love of the limelight was cemented at USC. Even now with the Jets, Sanchez seems to welcome the attention that goes with dating starlets like Eva Longoria rather than shying away from it.

[Also: Unhappy Darrelle Revis calls out New York Jets owner]

That said, Leinart and Sanchez are only two cases. The consistent failure of the overall group is strange. Where quarterbacks from Texas, (Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck) and even Northern California (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick) have had success, SoCal passers don't come even close.

"If there's one thing I would say, it's that they're not tough, especially from a mental standpoint," a veteran scout said. "Elway was raised by a coach. He was taught the right way. Moon had it tougher than all of them because of the [fact that he's black]. That guy had to go to Canada to prove us all wrong.

"I don't know what it is about it down there, but I haven't seen one kid from there like that since ... Like I said, movie stars."

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