Call it a perfect storm of things.
It started when Barkley came back for his senior season. Expectations were high coming off a pretty good 2011 season. Matt Barkley was a Heisman favorite, the team was ranked preseason #1 and once again the press loved USC.
Then reality hit.
Kiffin's stupid comments regarding the polls and how he ranked his own team was the red flag. Kiffin was now expected to produce and the pressure was already engulfing him.
That was just the beginning.
I sat in the Meadowlands as I watched this team struggle to put away an average Syracuse team. I thought there is no way this is a number one team.
Holmes goes down with an ankle injury and Barkley gets knocked around like a piñata a week later in the Stanford game...the flood gates opened. That is when the bad decision making started to raise its ugly head.
I could go on, but we all saw it for ourselves.
You could point to a number of things for Barkley's slide.
The most obvious are his skills. You have to honestly have to ask yourself...was Barkley really a first round pick? NFL Scouts are not fooled by ESPN hype. Sure they miss on some guys, but I will listen to scout before I will listen to Kiper or McShay who have been wrong a lot more than they have been right.
Barkley's arm strength, his footwork and his mobility are what they are. Barkley isn't graceful in the pocket. He can sling the ball down the field but it doesn't really have zip. Barkley over threw more than he under threw. Those are his genetics, not much you can do without that.
But what about what is in his head?
Barkley made the same mistakes this past season that he has made in previous seasons...I put that on the coach(s). Has Matt Barkley ever been groomed by a solid coach to make him better? Kiffin is not that guy and neither was Jeremy Bates.
I will not disagree that running for your life behind a sieve of an O-line doesn't help, but did Kiffin coach those guys up?
Barkley went down with an injury because both Barkley and Aundrey Walker misread the coverage that led to Barkley's injury.
Enough of the sanctions are killing us.
Walker was a "steal" when Kiffin got him. I guess Walker isn't all that now right?
I get it that the defense didn't help matters. But it is Kiffin's job to tell Barkley NOT to put the world on his shoulders to make up for poor defensive play. Every QB thinks he can lead the team to victory in order to make up for poor play or deficiencies. Kiffin's job is to mentor Barkley to keep his wits about him...instead Kiffin kept pushing Barkley to get the ball to Marqise Lee.
We saw the results and lost Robert Woods in the process.
There has been some chatter on the boards that Barkley has some detractors on the team because he wouldn't play in the bowl game. I don't understand that, after all Barkley did comeback for his senior season when he was projected as a top 5-10 pick. Sure doesn't sound selfish to me.
Some have criticized Barkley's recent comments about Kiffin as being a red flag to scouts about his leadership abilities. I don't agree with that. While Barkley did question his leadership with regards to not speaking up when the team was sputtering. I would hardly paint him with that broad a brush when it comes to leadership. The kid was the face of this team when the sanctions hit...he handled that situation with grace over and over.
The comments were unfortunate and they should not have been said. I chalk it up to kid being frustrated...a 22 year old kid makes a mistake and shoots off his mouth.
Color me shocked.
I am OK if some say Barkley just isn't that good to be a top round pick. It's clear that the scouts feel that way.
I would say that Barkley's slide had more to do with his not playing in the senior bowl and not participating in the combine. Pro Day is homogenized and scouts discount what they see there. When all you have is game film to make a judgement on its hard to have a clearer picture.
As many have said on the boards and on Twitter...this story reinforces that a star junior with real talent won't stay for his senior season....and they sure as hell won't stay at USC with Kiffin as the coach.
Live and Learn.