The Philadelphia Eagles selected quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft. Actually, they traded up a few spots to grab the former USC Trojan, who one year earlier was considered a top-five draft pick, had he opted to declare for the 2012 draft.
In his first season with the Eagles, Matt Barkley didn’t do much. He found himself on a team that was trying to pick up its pieces under a new coaching regime. As that was not already a difficult situation, he entered a “three-horse” race: a quarterback battle behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles. As expected, Barkley finished third and had to sit behind the two main Eagles’ signal callers.
For a rookie QB, sitting on the bench during your first year can be a very positive and fruitful experience. You see how the offense operates, the veterans’ approach (training, tape study, games, etc) and familiarize yourself with the locker room and the world of the NFL without having to carry a team on your shoulders.
This wasn’t exactly the case for Barkley. The Eagles started the season with Vick at the helm, then Foles replaced the injured starter, then they went back to Vick, until finally Foles took over as the starter.
Barkley was also thrown into the fire in Week 7 and Week 8, replacing Foles and Vick respectively. He was very bad in both games, completing 28 of 46 attempts for no touchdowns and four interceptions.
Barkley had the chance to learn the offense in 2013. He said recently:
“It really feels like “my” offense now. Last year it was kind of like Oregon’s offense. It feels like the offense that I’ve been running for a while now. All the calls, all the checks, it all just comes to [me] quickly. I don’t have to think about it now.” (from BleeedingGreenNation.com)
However, the lack of a real mentor at the position affected his learning process. Both Vick and Foles were not the ideal mentors. Vick is not a typical quarterback and relies much more on his mobility than most quarterbacks do. Foles could have been a great mentor, but he was very inexperienced for such a role.
To make matters worse, it doesn’t look like Barkley’s second year will be much better. Foles is the unquestioned starter and the Eagles brought in Mark Sanchez to back him up. Barkley has the chance to beat Sanchez for the backup job in training camp. Regardless, he will miss a good mentor for the second straight year. Sanchez is not a good quarterback and hasn’t manage to overcome adversity as professional. There are not a lot of things a young player can take from him.
One of the highest regarded college quarterbacks, Barkley landed in a “special” and less-than-ideal situation for a quarterback who wants to develop his skills and grow into a professional player. His working environment can easily limit his development and prove detrimental for his future career.
Definitely, this is the worst scenario for Matt Barkley, but also a very possible one. Hopefully, Chip Kelly will find a way to help Barkley reach his potential, otherwise the Eagles would have wasted a fourth-round and seventh-round pick (remember, they traded up to get him) for a player who never really got to contribute.