Is it Max Browne’s Time to be USC Starting Quarterback?

Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Max Browne (4) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Max Browne (4) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been a long four years for Max Browne, but after waiting his turn behind Cody Kessler, this could be his time to finally become the starting quarterback at USC.

When Max Browne committed to the Trojans in April 2012, it was at the highest point USC football had seen since the Bush administration.

The Trojans were fresh off of an outstanding 10-2 season, despite NCAA sanctions restricting bowl eligibility. A No. 1 preseason ranking was widely assumed to be coming, as the team was stockpiled with talent that included senior quarterback and NFL-bound Matt Barkley.

With Lane Kiffin roaming the sidelines, T.J. McDonald stalking prey in the secondary, and a dynamic two-headed receiving corps of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, it was a great time to be a Trojan.

So of course Browne grabbed onto the opportunity of being the next great USC quarterback. Who wouldn’t have?

Since Browne threw on a cardinal and gold cap, the Trojans have been through a wild roller coaster.

At the time, even us here at Reign of Troy couldn’t help but buy into the moment.

“Considering how USC recruiting is looking now with Max Browne and David Sills at quarterback, the Trojans theoretically could plan out their quarterback situation for the rest of the decade,” I flippantly opined.

THROWBACK: Max Browne Commits to USC’s 2013 Class

But needless to say, since Browne threw on a cardinal and gold cap, the Trojans have been through a wild roller coaster, leaving repeated controversies and letdowns in their wake.

Kiffin and both of his familiar successors are gone. Barkley’s career was derailed, and Sills decommitted, signed with West Virginia, converted to receiver, transferred and has since been named El Camino College’s starting quarterback.

All the while, the one constant within the Trojans’ program is Browne anxiously awaiting his turn.

But alas, this is major college football. And for every reason that the Sammamish, Wash. product had to pick USC, so did 2015 enrollee Sam Darnold.

“You know that you’re getting into when you come to ‘SC,” Browne said at the start of fall camp. “I’ve got to win a job first, before I worry about our opponent in Week 1. To me, that’s why you come here.”

The result is a quarterback battle different than any the Trojans have seen in recent memory.

Unlike 2013, Browne vs. Darnold isn’t a case of the coaching staff keeping the competition open so a particular quarterback –i.e. Max Wittek– can maybe emerge as the winner, despite being outplayed.

This isn’t 2009 either, when Aaron Corp seemingly won the job in spring camp, only to see true freshman Barkley rip it away from his hands in the fall.

If anything, it resembles 2006. Fourth-year man John David Booty played well after waiting his turn behind Matt Leinart and held off the impressive, but still raw, redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez.

However, Darnold is a year ahead of where Sanchez was, making this year’s competition a seemingly no-lose affair.

MORE QBS: 10 Best USC Quarterbacks of All-Time

But while former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah validly argues that a dead heat should go to the younger man for stability, consider what the grizzled Browne brings to the table.

His game is simple. At 6-foot-5, he’s a big, lumbering quarterback who can make all of the throws and isn’t afraid to browse the field, take a risk and chuck the ball down field.

Coming off of the risk-averse Cody Kessler era, that’s an enticing change to consider.

Add in the fact that Browne is in Year 4 –all of which being alongside Clay Helton– and has carried himself as a starting quarterback for the better part of a year, he’s without a doubt the safe choice.

Safe choice shouldn’t be a dirty word, though. Nor is having simplicity in your game.

Because together, those words hint at Browne’s biggest benefit: his ease of transition.

“I don’t want to say I’m not learning, because you’re always learning,” Browne said. “But I know this offense like the back of my hand.”

For an offense continually lacking an identity and happily entrenched in the no-answer camp to the eternal question of ‘Do we run a pro-style set or a dynamic spread offense?’, Browne’s a comfortable certainty.

You know what he is, and he knows what USC requires of him.

RELATED: How the 2016 Trojans Resemble the Iconic 2005 Team

While starting Darnold is a long-term play, having the steady Browne lead the 2016 attack can allow offensive coordinator Tee Martin to fit his quarterback to his personnel.

The Trojans have one of the most experienced offenses in the country, including several players presumably in their final seasons, like Biletnikoff Award candidate JuJu Smith-Schuster, future NFL tackle Zach Banner and veteran running back Justin Davis.

Now’s the time to go for it with what you have, as opposed to playing for 2018. Especially when you consider that Browne’s one-dimensionality limits what the Trojans can throw at defenses.

LISTEN: Who Should Start for USC?

Having trouble? Listen on Soundcloud, iTunes or Stitcher.

But that’s a good thing, as the fundamental problem of the USC offense has been wanting to do too much of everything.

Running two-tight-end sets is great. Having plays for highly skilled weapons like Adoree’ Jackson is a luxury any coach in college football would want.

Putting Ronald Jones alongside Davis in a splitbacks formation is clever, as is having the recently converted-from-quarterback Jalen Greene out wide for double passes.

But given USC’s M.O., as repeatedly seen in defeats, more options mean more chances the wrong decision is picked.

More from Reign of Troy

Sam Darnold’s dual-threat nature, as enticing and forward-thinking it is, is just another piece of the puzzle to be potentially mismanaged.

SEE ALSO: Projecting USC’s Post-Fall Camp Depth Chart

With a first-year offensive coordinator, Keep-It-Simple-Stupid needs to be written all over the play sheet.

So after all of the changes that USC has undergone in the last four years –both on and off the field– and while committing to a progressive, modern offense is needed long-term, the 2016 answer for the Trojans might just be what was here all along: the big-armed gunslinger, Max Browne.

He got to Troy as the assumed successor to Kessler, flanked by a hotshot 2015 recruit poised to wait for his opportunity like everyone save for Barkley before him.

Four years later, we might just be back to square one.

Kiffin coaches the preseason No. 1 team, after all. What could go wrong?