Is Foles definitely the quarterback of the future?
In three games as a rookie, Matt Barkley was 30-for-49 for 300 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs. (USA Today Images)
The numbers are ugly, and Matt Barkley knows that. And he also knows it’s kind of silly to judge him by the numbers in two games that he played as a rookie emergency quarterback without any practice reps in situations where the Eagles had to throw the ball.
He knows that the Matt Barkley Eagles fans saw this year isn’t the real Matt Barkley. And he can’t wait to prove it.
“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.”
With Michael Vick still on the shelf with his hamstring injury and Foles sidelined with a concussion, Barkley entered the first Dallas game with 9½ minutes left and the Eagles trailing 17-3.
A week later, in the second Giants game, with Foles out with the concussion and Vick unable to continue after trying to play with the sore hammy, Barkley entered the game with the Eagles down 12-0.
He didn’t lead a scoring drive in either game and committed five turnovers -- more than Foles committed all year.
“We had to throw, they knew we had to throw, so they were dropping eight,” Barkley said. “Both those games were games where we were forced to pass, and any game when you’re passing every play it puts the defense at an advantage.”
Barkley is right. 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.
Barkley threw three interceptions in the Dallas game and had an interception and three fumbles (one lost) in the Giants game.
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.
Barkley went 39-7 at USC and was sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a junior before a disappointing senior season and shoulder injury derailed his hopes of being a first-round pick.
The Eagles nabbed him with the first pick in the fourth round, and head coach Chip Kelly said he’s excited to see how Barkley progresses going into his second season.
“Matt was awesome,” Kelly said. “I'm excited to get a full offseason with Matt in here to really get a chance to work with him because I think he's got a skill set that's exciting when you see him, how the ball comes out of his hands, the decisions that he makes, and that's part of this whole deal.”
With Vick back from his hamstring and Foles healthy the last 10 weeks of the season, Barkley didn’t play a snap after the Oakland blowout, when he threw three passes in mop-up duty.
He became a forgotten man on a playoff team, but he said he never stopped working, never stopped studying, never stopped learning.
“I think, my arm has gotten stronger in the last year and a half or so and my comfort level with the offense as well, but just getting a perspective on what it’s like in the NFL, the ups and downs of a season, how to manage yourself, how to manage your time,” he said.
“A lot of the kind of things you can’t put on paper I’ve learned a lot about. Hopefully that will help me in the future.”
As for the future, Barkley’s remains unknown. Foles established himself as the Eagles’ starter with his unprecedented 29-touchdown, two-interception season, and even though Vick is a free agent and unlikely to return, nobody would be surprised if the Eagles draft another young quarterback in May.
Barkley said he doesn’t care how things line up once the Eagles return for offseason workouts and eventually training camp. All he knows is that people are going to see a different Matt Barkley next time he plays.
“So I’m excited for this offseason,” he said. “Train, get stronger, get better, and come back for a better 2014.
“There’s a lot more there. I’m capable of a lot more. I’m excited. I’m not beating myself up over how I played.
“No doubt I’ll be better [next year]. I feel like I’ll be in a much better situation to compete. More comfortable, my arm will be healthy, and I’ll be ready to go.
“You learn and you move forward. Onward and upward.”