There has been some buzz since the Eagles chose Matt Barkley
in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, as you might expect. For one
it defied many of the preconceived notions people held about what works in Chip
Kelly’s offense. Also, had Barkley departed USC one year earlier, he might have
been a far more heralded prospect, perhaps even a top 10 pick.
News flash: Barkely didn’t go in the top 10 or in the first
round at all, not even during the first two days of the draft. Again, he was a
fourth-round pick, a mere 10 spots later than where Nick Foles went in 2012,
and the same round where the Eagles grabbed Mike Kafka in 2011. I don’t recall
anybody writing the story two years ago entitled, “What Mike Kafka and the
Eagles’ Offseason Say About Andy Reid’s Plans.”
Yet that story was written about the Eagles, Barkley, and
their new head coach by Chris Brown at Grantland yesterday. Brown admits
Barkley is likely a hedge by an organization that lacks a franchise
quarterback at this point in time – or at least doesn’t know who that person is
yet. Then comes the part where his addition might be a sign of things to come for Kelly's offense.
There is another possibility,
though. In addition to drafting Barkley, among the major moves Kelly made was
signing tight end James Casey in free agency and drafting Stanford tight end
Zach Ertz, two movable chess pieces to go along with Philadelphia’s other
multipurpose tight end, Brent Celek. These moves might be an indication that
Kelly’s focus is shifting from the roster of speedy running backs and
dual-threat quarterbacks he had at Oregon. Instead, Philadelphia may be looking
to mesh the fleet-footed receivers already on its roster with a group of
dynamic tight ends. As part of that group, Kelly is likely hoping Barkley can
be an extremely accurate, intelligent, intangible-heavy quarterback who can
efficiently operate his lightning-fast no huddle.
This is no different from saying Chip needs a mobile
quarterback. He keeps saying he doesn’t, and now the Eagles have drafted as
though he doesn’t. Now Chip says we’re just taking the best player on the
board, and it’s a statement about what the Birds’ offense will look like.
Don’t me wrong, Brown is a knowledgeable football guy, and I
respect his opinion. That probably is
what the offense is going to look like if Barkley or Foles for that matter are
under center. But then Kelly has said all along he will coach to the strength
of his personnel, so if it’s Vick or the shiny new mobile quarterback they choose
in the first round next April, maybe it won’t look like that then.
Barkley’s arrival in this town has been treated like no
other fourth-round pick I can remember (except maybe Na Brown). It’s as if his being groomed as the franchise
quarterback is almost a foregone conclusion. Les Bowen of the Daily News wrote
shortly after Barkley was selected “you'd have to think Barkley is Kelly's
quarterback of the future,” and has since suggested his presence may not be a
good sign for Foles.
With the Eagles, Barkley faces a
crowded field, led by Michael Vick. Barkley's arrival is bad news for Nick
Foles, in that Foles was the young QB drafted by the previous coach, and
Barkley is the young QB drafted by the new coach. But this also might mean
Foles really will get that even chance to compete for a starting role, given
that drafting Barkley means Kelly isn't wed to the idea of great QB mobility.
I’m not sure either Foles or Barkley was drafted by their
head coaches for one. Howie Roseman took the credit for the 2012 draft that
netted Foles, and while Chip’s finger prints are all over this year’s group,
there were a lot of seasoned talent evaluators such as Tom Gamble and Tom
Donahoe working on this class. Let’s forget about whose guys are whose and just
look at the reality of the situation.
• Vick turns 33 this summer and is playing on a one-year deal.
If he doesn’t start and have a great season, he’s gone.
- • Foles is a third-round pick with six NFL starts under his
belt. He’s earned an opportunity to compete for the job, but we don’t know what
they have yet.
- • Barkley is a fourth rounder. To put that in perspective, the
best three fourth-round quarterbacks of the last 20 years are Kyle Orton, David
Garrard, and Aaron Brooks.
In other words, any one of the three Birds QBs could be the starter on
opening day over a year from now in 2014 – or none of them.
Barkley isn’t special just because at one time people
believed he might go in the top 10. As Bowen points out, even though somebody
thinks it doesn’t mean that’s what would have happened (just look at Sharrif Floyd this year), and I would add it
doesn’t mean Barkley would have been successful, either. He went
where he went in the draft, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.
Chip Kelly’s plan wasn’t to discover the next Tom Brady in
this draft. The Eagles have a need at quarterback, and Barkley was the player
available when they were on the clock, so they took him. For the time being at
least, there really isn’t too much more to make of the selection than that.
>> Matt Barkley’s fall ‘a perfect storm’ for Eagles [Daily
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