Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley says he’s willing to put the blame on his own shoulders for the Trojans’ disappointing 2012, when they entered the season ranked No. 1 and ended the season unranked. But while accepting that blame, Barkley has made comments that don’t speak highly for USC coach Lane Kiffin, the former Raiders head coach who’s heading into his fourth season leading the Trojans.
Barkley said in an interview with Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports that he wished he would have been a better leader last year. Which raises the question of whether there was a leadership void at the top of the USC program.
“I learned how to handle adversity last season, and maybe I could have done a few things differently. I could’ve had a bigger voice, given more input and taken it to the next level — pretty much as the owner of the company might . . . not just letting things happen. You put faith in your coaches, but when you see trends, things not happening the right way, and when the team rests on your shoulders, it’s almost like you have to step up. You can’t just let these things go by and watch them disintegrate in front of you. You’ve got to put the glue in somewhere. Looking back, I wish I’d been more forceful.”
Barkley was knocked by some observers for forcing too many throws last year, but he suggested that it was Kiffin’s play calling that was forcing his hand: Barkley says Kiffin was so enamored with wide receiver Marqise Lee that Barkley wasn’t able to get the ball into the hands of the Trojans’ other starting receiver, Robert Woods.
“Kiff kind of suited the play-calling toward Marqise,” Barkley said. “It was rough at times, because defenses kinda knew what was coming. It was sort of predictive. Robert Woods is a great player. . . . You want to be respectful of your coaches, because they are your elders, but when it falls on your shoulders, you probably should get involved.”
So the Trojans’ tough season may have taught Barkley a lesson about leadership that he can apply as a pro quarterback. And the fact that the quarterback felt leadership was lacking may suggest that Al Davis was right about Kiffin.