USC Morning Buzz: What Quarterback Controversy?


Under what circumstances would someone who started every game at quarterback last season (Cody Kessler) lose his job to someone who has yet to take a college snap (Max Browne)?

I’m not saying it cannot happen. But I do wonder if Steve Sarkisian thinks the quarterback position is essentially settled unless Kessler struggles during the actual season. Coaches tend to be conservative making changes at quarterback and Sarkisian probably doesn’t want to start his USC career by going out on limb.

Does all of this make spring practice a little less dramatic? Would Sarkisian want to face Fresno State with an inexperience quarterback and have someone who started every game on the bench. Seems highly unlikely.

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  • UCLA Dynasty

    So, are you saying the new coach is a liar? I guess the Sark apple doesn’t fall far from the Kiffin tree.

  • timtrojan

    Scotty knock off the good analysis and get back to finding out what Kiffin is doing.

  • Booyakasha

    The question is -Is Kessler going to get us to the playoffs? He was terrible in the ND, UCLA and the second half of the Stanford game. A large reason for the inept offense in those games, was the O line. If the O line play doesn’t improve this year, then it doesn’t matter who we have at QB.
    But if the O line play improves to where, we can run when we want and use our Tight Ends to catch passes, then I think we should be OK with Browne. He was a highly recruited QB with a seemingly higher ceiling than Kessler. I didn’t see Kessler do anything last season which made me go ‘Wow!’.
    The first season is when a coach has the most amount of goodwill. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to go with a less experienced but a more ‘talented’ QB in the first year, get over the growing pains and then mount a serious challenge for the playoffs year 2 onwards. The least Sark can do is give Browne a fair shot in Spring ball. Just like Pete did with Russell Wilson.

    • lifetime Bruin Fan

      I agree with your assessment about the O line, It all start with the O line.

      • Booyakasha

        It’s just weird. Ever since SC lost Matt Kalil, the O line has been an absolute sham.

    • Cloud Shaman

      He beat Stanford

      • Booyakasha

        We scored 3 points in the second half. Our D line was lights out that game.

        • Ben Factor

          In fairness, Kessler had one good 2nd half possession vs. Stanford. Typically, he can’t take the pressure off a stalled running attack.

    • Ben Factor

      Agree completely, and I’m more skeptical of Kessler than you are.

      USC lost a lot of good players, and is feeling maximum bite from the scholarship reductions. The OL looks problematic (but may not be). Experimentation is NOT super risky.

      Maybe Browne is not more talented. If he is, and shows it in practice, start him. The most important objective this year is to beat UCLA. Second most is to beat ND. Those victories will secure recruiting stature. Aim for
      November, not September/October.

  • Fred Sampson

    Max Browne can make throws that Cody Kessler can’t , so if USC can establish a decent running early on in the season , then it would be a wise choice to start Browne .

    • Cloud Shaman

      how do you know this?

  • Mike K

    USC won ten games despite Kessler’s inconsistency. I judge Kessler the same way I judged Coach O; Adequate but can’t win the big games.

  • Title Town News

    Kessler threw for 345 yards and four TDs justg 73 days ago … and you guys want to throw him under the bus for a redshirt freshman you have never seen play?

    • Booyakasha

      If we played the Fresno defense every Saturday, I’d have full confidence in Kessler as our QB. But he just didn’t play well against ND, UCLA or the second half against Stanford. I don’t think Browne should be given the starting job on a platter, but Sark should make it a truly open QB competition.

      • Title Town News

        Agreed about the Fresno State defense … but the OL was EXPOSED against ND … and again against UCLA when two starters went out. Not blaming Kessler for either of those performances. Key is he got better as year progressed. Only concern is the four pick sixes.

        • Booyakasha

          Fair enough. Either way, without an O line we ain’t winning many next season.

  • The Capper

    I would say expectations for next season should be reasonable. It isn’t a throw away season but still, no crazy thoughts of a playoff run. That being said, give Browne the ball and get a season under his belt just ahead of getting all of the scholarships back in 2015, and then make a run. If Browne can make a great run as a RS Freshman then that would be great.

  • rusoviet

    USC has a very easy schedule next year – save for ucla and Stanford – the remaining games are winnable with a ‘+’ average effort and considering Stanford is the 2nd game of the season at Palo Alto ‘if’ USC wins that one it basically is a fairly consistent run to late November.

    I would hope Sark would put the ‘qb’ up for grabs – I agree with others as to Kessler’s lack of skill – there was no zip on his passes regardless of the lack of blocking by the ‘O’ line. QB’s with a weak ‘O’ line learn to pass quicker – Kessler didn’t.

    • EncinitasBruin

      Agree. Two years ago at UCLA a kid named Hundley–who had never taken a college snap–beat out two veteran seniors in Brehaut and Prince. That worked out ok for the Bruins. Haven’t seen Browne play, but if he’s the better QB…

      • Larry Harris

        Apples and oranges. The two Bruins were competent but nothing special. They were peaked-out seniors. This is much different than a Junior who, granted has some flaws, but has been improving with every game. He has some further unknown potential…or not.
        High risk in one situation, not so high in the other. The coaching dynamics are much different in the two scenarios..

  • B.Miller

    I like Kessler, and I think he improves.. I think if the Oline is struggling he should run more or move around the box to open things up.. to many sacks last year..

  • Larry Harris

    Hombre del Lobo once again is like the broken clock that is
    correct twice a day.

    Quick ‘N Dirty synopsis of Mr. Kessler. On the plus side… Intelligent, super attitude, a demonstrated leader, adequate pass completion % (65%),
    trustworthy and perhaps the most important quality…a known quantity.
    Then the other shoe drops. Runs like a wounded quail, therefore no dual threat aspect…not exactly Mandrake the magician with his play-action, reduced velocity on his passes, and perhaps the unkindest cut of all…not at his best in the really big games. No Leinart when it comes to responding to pressure. Not the quickest release seen by mankind.

    Bottom line – He ain’t no Carson, Rodney, or Sogge (my personal favorite) but he holds his own with a lot of other ‘good guys’.

    So what about this Brownie guy? I only know what I read in
    the funny papers, but word on the street is that he is ‘Da Man! Kinda looks
    like he very well might be, but what does the real world say about his chances as being our QB next year? Lobo got this one right…Slim and slimmer.

    Will it be a fair competition?…Absolutely! Max will get his lip service shot.
    Will he clearly demonstrate that is the best? I wouldn’t bet against it.
    No matter, my guess is that the result has been pre-ordained. Like it or not. Would I have done the same if I were Sark? Tough to say…Mucho pressure.
    In a previous correspondence, El Lobo thinks 30% at best is realistic for Max to wind upbeing our starter. I am afraid it is less than that. Kudos to El Lobo for his thoughts…sometimes the blind squirrel finds the acorn.

    • Ben Factor

      If he has more upside, he should start if he’s close to even. He doesn’t have to be clearly the best, he has to be close, with materially more upside. Kessler is not a great passer; that’s how it is.

      • Larry Harris

        I concur, but as Helen has been known to say, “Don’t hold your breath”…a post that led to the moderator going bizerk and deleting almost every response known to mankind over those 4 little words.
        Go figure!

        • Ben Factor

          Larry, I’m not saying that Browne does have much more potential; I don’t know how he has progressed in the last year, and HS is no measure. But assuming Browne does, how do you think Sark would look at the situation, that would lead to Browne’s chances being “slim to none”? Please help me to understand.

          • Larry Harris

            Just my WAG. Sark has too much to lose if Browne was selected and did not work out. It would be much more tolerated if Kess was selected as ‘the man’ and does not improve from last season. Go with the incumbent and the resulting criticism will be minimal. Would you go against the tide if you were Kiff…regardless of your gut feelings? Taking the easy way out tends to prolongue job security when that decision turns out to be wrong. I like Kess, but am not necessarily sold on his being superior to Max. We need more data. Just my perception of reality.

          • Ben Factor

            Larry, he’s in the first year of his contract. 2014 is the year of maximum impact of reduced scholarships. He lost five important juniors. He’s installing a new system and mostly new coaches. To a realist, the prognosis for next year is guarded.

            Like a new President of the U.S., Sark has the most freedom of action right now. Kiffin was in a very different circumstance last year.

            There is only one way for Sark to stay in the job long term, or if he prefers, to go to the NFL. He has to win big over time, starting no later than year 3, and ideally in year 2.

            His goal next year should be to finish the season with the strongest team he can put together. First and foremost, beat UCLA. Second, beat ND. It’s too bad that Stanford comes up early, but that loss will be forgotten if he wins those other two.

            If Kessler is more likely to lead a strong finish to 2014, start him. Kessler is unlikely to leave early for the NFL; he doesn’t have an NFL game. Browne will likely transfer, and USC will have two more years of Kessler.

            If Browne is more likely to lead a strong finish to 2014, start him, and live with the early mistakes.

            I think that makes the most sense–for Sark. Do you really disagree?

            I’ll tell you one thing: if Sark’s priority is to mute criticism in 2014, he’s a very short-term thinker, and a bad strategist. Might as well fire him now.

          • Larry Harris

            I believe that Sark is primarily concerned with career Risk. If in that position most of us would probably be also. Senor Lobo thinks that the probability of Browne being the guy is around 30%. I think it will be lower. My largest fear is that we might lose Max if mediocrity reigns. In any event, this Traveler has been almost beaten to death. Let’s see what we shall see.

  • Fred Sampson


  • Troy Rod

    Come on people get a clue. I don’t agree with Scotty Wolf very much, but he is correct on this one. Kessler lead USC to a 10 win season. The players all look to him as the leader of the team. He kept the team together during the circus that went on this year. The can’t win big games and inconsistency criticisms is unfair. The whole team didn’t show up for UCLA and the game plan was terrible. It was his first year as a starter too. For a first year starter he did great and will only improve. Matt Barkley and Carson Palmer didn’t have the numbers Kessler did. No one knows what Browne is so stop acting like you do. Until he has played a down and the lights are on who knows how he reacts to the speed and pressure of college football. You really thing Sark is going to take a chance on kid who hasn’t played a down when he has a QB who performed very well under extreme adversity in his 1st year as a starter? Not going to happen. People can buy into the “competition” all they want but the coaches know who their starter is. Unless Browne is so good this off-season and Kessler struggles a ton don’t expect a change. Just listen to Kessler interview and present himself. He is the leader and USC QB for the next two years. I’ll bet my house on it. Max Browne will have to wait his turn like every other 8 star QB before him at USC. Sark was really high on Kessler out of high school and I believe there is a reason Helton was retained as OC. Kessler.

  • Larry Harris

    Many posters will knee-jerk dismiss/bash the Hombre del Lobo, but this latest missive is quite cogent.