After Sam Darnold and USC were obliterated Saturday night in South Bend, a couple things became clear for the QB who has the most upside in the 2018 NFL Draft:
- There’s no point in Darnold sticking around USC with this current staff. Tee Martin and Clay Helton have not built on last season’s success, and the loss of six starters, combined with injuries and a brutal schedule, have led the Trojans to be out of the playoff mix before Halloween.
- Would Darnold stay at USC for a coaching change? Would he stick around if say … Chip Kelly were hired as coach? We’re getting ahead of ourselves, seeing as USC gave Helton a 5-year contract in November 2015.
But would Darnold want to go and play for the putrid Browns or 49ers, both of whom are winless?
This is where it gets interesting. The 49ers have a dynamic offensive mind in head coach Kyle Shanahan, and while they were recently competitive for a 5-week stretch, those loses were book-ended by two blowouts at home to Carolina and Dallas.
Cleveland is in much worse shape. Hue Jackson works as an offensive coordinator, but appears utterly clueless as a head coach, and will be fired at some point in the next three months. But you could argue this is a top-down problem, and you’d be right. They’ve been putrid for at least two decades.
Is Sam Darnold going to say no to Peyton Manning?
Before you ask, “why would Peyton Manning take that job?” Manning and Haslem both went to the University of Tennessee. They’re longtime friends. Haslem is one of the school’s biggest boosters; Manning is the best player in school history.
The toughest selling point is getting Peyton Manning to uproot his family and move to Cleveland for the rebuild. Unlike Elway in Denver, Manning has no tangible connection to the franchise. And he doesn’t need the money.
The draw? Work with your longtime buddy, work with the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, and bring the city something it has never had: A Super Bowl trophy.