Matt Barkley was on top of the world in the summer of 2012. He was back for his senior season at USC. The team was loaded with talent. They were the top ranked team in the nation in some polls. Barkley was the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy and a slam-dunk Top 5 pick in the NFL draft. Life was good.
And then things fell apart. USC was 7-3 going into the UCLA game. Things were disappointing, but the season could be saved with some key wins late in the year. Unfortunately Barkley got hurt late in the game and the Trojans lost. They lost to Notre Dame the next week and then in the Sun Bowl. USC went 7-6. Barkley was an afterthought in the Heisman race. His NFL status was going to be affected by the shoulder injury. Life was not so good.
The NFL draft did not go as Barkley hoped. Instead of being the first player overall or the first quarterback chosen, he had to settle for being the first player taken in the fourth round. Talk about a fall from grace.
Barkley had the right attitude. He wasn't bitter, but he let the draft slide fuel him. He was the first player to the NovaCare complex a few times during the offseason. That was the first sign that Barkley wasn't the pretty boy SoCal quarterback that some thought he was. Barkley could grind away and do the little things that coaches love.
Unfortunately, Barkley was the third man in a quarterback competition between Michael Vick and Nick Foles. They got the majority of the reps. Barkley wanted desperately to be looked at as a legitimate challenger, but he wasn't fully over the shoulder injury and that limited his ability to throw. Barkley's passes lacked ideal zip.
Barkley had to sit quietly as Vick began the season red hot before losing the job to Foles, who played at a phenomenal level. Injuries allowed Barkley to get on the field at midseason, but he was put in tough situations and responded the way you would expect a rookie third-stringer to. Barkley threw four interceptions and looked highly erratic.
Fans and the media got very down on Barkley after his two appearances. There was every right to be critical of his mistakes. Barkley made some poor decisions and some bad throws. But there were some positives that got overlooked. His shoulder was finally healthy and he threw the ball better that he had in a long time. Barkley did move the team better than Foles in the Dallas game. He led the offense into the Red Zone in each of the games, but then turned the ball over in an ugly way in each game.
If you judge Barkley strictly on those two games, there is no way he should be considered for the backup job in 2014. But the coaches know better than that. They saw him every day during the season. They saw him in practice and the classroom. They know what he can do. They know his potential.
If the Eagles decide to make Barkley the number two quarterback, it will be because the coaches like and trust him that much. The Eagles had Barkley rated as a Top 50 player in the draft. They consider themselves incredibly lucky that he fell to the fourth round. You can't overlook that fact when assessing him. Barkley is a player that Chip Kelly really wanted.
Barkley doesn't want to be the backup quarterback. He wants to start. In his mind, he will outplay Foles and win the job. This may sound crazy to some, but it is exactly the way you want a young player like Barkley to think. You don't want him settling for a backup job. You want him hungry and driven.
Kelly believes in competition so he will give Barkley a chance to compete for the job. Most of us on the outside know that Foles is a virtual lock to win the job, but the competition has value. You don't want Foles resting on his laurels. He needs to be pushed.
Go back and study the great quarterbacks. Most had to deal with adversity in college or the NFL. Peyton Manning had to fight for the starting job at Tennessee. Feels funny to say that, but he was the number three quarterback when he got to Knoxville. Drew Brees saw the Chargers draft his replacement in Phillip Rivers. They played together for two years and then Brees headed to New Orleans. Brees best year in San Diego came when Rivers was a rookie. That challenge pushed him.
Aaron Rodgers couldn't get into a big school so he went to junior college. He then transferred to Cal. After starring for the Bears, he fell to pick 20 on draft day and then sat behind Brett Favre for three years. Johnny Unitas was cut by the Steelers and later picked up by the Colts. The Steelers almost didn't go with Terry Bradshaw as their starter despite the fact he as the #1 overall pick. They got lucky with that situation.
Go check out most great quarterbacks and there is some situation that fueled them. Michigan kept trying to give Tom Brady's job to prep phenom Drew Henson. Then Brady slid to the sixth round. To this day, that drives him and keeps him focused, despite the supermodel wife and huge bank account.
I hope Barkley and Foles do push each other. It should bring out the best in them. After all, if you can't handle the pressure of a quarterback competition, how can you be expected to handle the pressure of playoff games and on-field situations?
My guess is that Barkley will be the primary competition for Foles. I tend to think the Eagles would like to bring in a veteran to add to the mix, but there aren't great choices on the market. Colt McCoy is one name that interests me, but he would hardly be a compelling addition.
The draft has some really intriguing prospects. Maybe Kelly will roll the dice and go with a super young group of quarterbacks. I would be okay with that. And we can't completely count out Kinne. He's got limitations, but the coaches like him. He does need to take a big step forward if he wants to keep a job on the roster.
Are there any more Detmer brothers?
- VIDEO: Nick Foles 2013 Highlights
- Eagles Position Review: Special Teams Coverage Unit
- BGN Roundtable: Eagles Free Agency Preview
- The Linc - Former Eagles Hugh Douglas and Terrell Owens Are in the News
- 2014 NFL Draft: No Projected Compensatory Picks for the Eagles
- Eagles Sign Wide Receiver Joe Anderson