One of the hot topics is whether the Eagles will bring back Michael Vick to be the backup QB. Part of that decision is influenced by what the team thinks of Matt Barkley.
In a fantasy world, you would love to have Barkley as the backup and then add another rookie to the mix. That way you would have a good group of young QBs. Depending on how they developed, you could have assets worth trading. The Packers did this for much of the 1990s and it worked very well.
Would Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman trust Barkley to be the backup? That player is a “chin strap away” as Kelly likes to say (by the way, I have no idea what that means other than to say the backup must be ready. Chin strap?). If the Eagles expect to be a Super Bowl contender next year, do you really want a 2nd year player as your primary backup? The Packers didn’t have the right backup QBs and they went 2-5-1 without Aaron Rodgers. You can go young or old, but you must have a good backup.
Let’s talk about what we saw from Barkley this year. I’m sure some will want to compare his rookie season to Nick Foles. That’s not fair to Barkley. Think back to the summer of 2012. Vick and Mike Kafka got hurt. Foles got the majority of snaps at practice. He started 2 preseason games. Foles got to play with the starters and he responded well to that. Barkley was the #3 QB all spring and summer. He got fewer reps than the other QBs. He didn’t start any games this summer. Both players threw 63 passes, but they played with very different guys and in different situations.
You also can’t ignore the fact that Barkley’s arm wasn’t 100 percent last summer. You could see that his passes didn’t have good zip on them. He looked completely different during the season when he got on the field. Barkley threw the ball well. Barkley was confident and didn’t look overwhelmed on the field. His decision-making was bad, especially on a pair of Red Zone turnovers. He threw a terrible INT vs Dallas and had a strip-sack fumble in the Giants game. Barkley had marched the team down the field in both cases, but could not finish the drives.
Reuben Frank wrote a story on Barkley a few days ago. Barkley has the right attitude about things. He knows some people aren’t going to be comfortable with him due to the sloppy performances in the 2 games.
“If you want to take that and jab me with that, that’s fine,” Barkley said of his 2013 stats. “I’m not going to make excuses. I know what I did wrong, and I’m going to learn from it, but at the same time, I’m capable of a lot more.
“I’m a better quarterback than that, and I know that and the people who have watched me and know me and watched me play the last four years — and even the last eight years, going back to high school — know that I’m a better quarterback than that.”
That’s what you want to hear. Barkley is acknowledging the problems, but remains self-confident.
Roob has some interesting numbers on Barkley.
His final numbers are somewhat ungainly: 30-for-49 for 300 yards with a 44.6 passer rating.
But if you look deeper, you see that Barkley actually completed 61 percent of his passes, which led all NFL rookies this year and is 13th-highest ever by an NFL rookie throwing at least 40 passes.
And he moved the ball smartly at times, with a nine-play, 76-yard drive against the Cowboys and an eight-play, 68-yard drive and 12-play, 48-yard drive against the Giants.
And remember that he was not playing in a balanced offense since the team was losing each game by at least 12 points.
In the Dallas game, Barkley played 24 snaps and 20 were passes. In the Giants game, Barkley got 44 snaps and 29 were passes.
That’s a 72-28 throw-pass ratio and certainly not the best way for a young quarterback to make his NFL debut.
No one can make an accurate evaluation of Barkley based on those 2 games. The coaches saw good and bad hints in them, but they’ll make the decision based more on what they saw in the classroom and on the practice field. That’s where they watched Barkley grow and mature over the course of the season.
Did he show them the traits of someone who could step in and play if needed?
I’m sure many of you hate the idea of Barkley as the primary backup, but remember that the Eagles really wanted him. Kelly said Barkley had one of the two best interviews at the Combine (along with Bennie Logan). Kelly and Roseman loved him. Kelly faced Barkley for 4 years in college. Roseman studied him on multiple trips to USC over the years. This isn’t a player they have casual feelings about.
That said, both men will make a tough evaluation of him. Kelly knows you can’t just hand the backup QB job to anyone. If they choose Barkley, it will be because both men have the confidence that he is right for the job and will do well if called upon. Backup QB is a critical position. You don’t give that spot out lightly.
Would I do it? That’s really tough to answer without being around Barkley to see how he’s learned from the mistakes. Based on what we saw, Barkley has the physical skills to be a good QB. We know he’s got the work ethic. Last spring he was the first QB in the building. Heck, he might have been the first player. That showed me a good work ethic and also that he wasn’t an entitled college star who thought he’d come in and just take over the NFL. I’m sure that lasting until the 4th round has put a huge chip on Barkley’s shoulder.
The problems Barkley had on the field were due to inexperience. He forced the ball into coverage. He made poor reads. He made poor decisions. PE.com has a video segment on Barkley where they show a good play and a bad play from him.
I still like Matt Barkley as a QB prospect. The question of whether he’s ready for a critical position in 2014 is one I’m glad I don’t have to answer. That’s up to Kelly and Roseman. They’ve seen Barkley almost every day for months and months. If they go with him, it won’t be a casual decision. It will be a sign that this is a guy they believe in.
Of course, Nick Foles could make this largely irrelevant if he would just promise to start 16 games next year.