Since creating America’s favorite hashtag – #Barkleytime – nearly a month ago, the conversation surrounding the future of the Bears at quarterback has changed. Punches have been thrown. Followers have been blocked on Twitter. Marriages have ended up in front of a mediator.
The framed, autographed Dick Butkus jersey…?
He can have that.
Matt Barkley arrived at Soldier Field.
He played three quarters against the Tennessee Titans that left fans clamoring for the days of Jonathan Quinn, Medicine Woman and CFL legend Henry Burris. He looked ill suited to the speed and difficulty level of the league. He was every bit the non-professional folks like me said he would be.
Then, something changed. Barkley put together a dynamic and rousing fourth quarter. He threw the ball effortlessly through the Titans zone and when the Titans left zone, relatively quickly, he required little more effort.
Three more games have been played and aside from the start of the third quarter against Green Bay this past Sunday, Barkley has looked every bit like an NFL starter. So why, why, why are fans and media types so reluctant to acknowledge what is happening on the field? Why has Barkley’s performance caused so much debate in Bears circles?
The answers are not simple.
Answer #1. “He’s Matt Barkley. We Know What He Is.”
Problem is, we don’t. Nobody does. John Fox: “He’s probably turned a lot of peoples heads.”
Barkley was drafted by Chip Kelly at Philadelphia, in the fourth round, into a system he had zero chance of fitting. Chip canned. Barkley gone after seeing a few mop-up snaps in losing efforts.
Bruce Arians brought Barkley to Arizona and Barkley struggled to find consistency in the preseason. Arians, this summer:
Have you seen progression with Barkley?
“Up and down. He’s like a yo-yo.”
Arians is not a young coach and the Cardinals (with someone else around here) believed they were title contenders this season. He was never carrying three QBs on Sundays and Drew Stanton is one of the game’a most reliable backups.
Barkley is not some ten-year journeyman who has blown multiple opportunities to start in the league. He’s a 26 year-old talent who has never been given an opportunity to start a game with a full week of practice and game planning until November 2016.
Answer #2. Cutler Fatigue, or The Fallacy of Physical Tools
Greg Gabriel, the former Bears scout, is an asshole. It just took me a lot longer than most who’ve engaged him on Twitter to realize this. But Gabriel’s argument against Barkley is not uncommon in league circles.
What does this mean? When analyzing quarterbacks coming out of college, criticizing their arm strength used to mean they were unable to make all the throws required of a pro QB. Tim Tebow threw a lovely deep ball but he couldn’t connect on a ten-yard out. Chad Pennington could dink and dunk you to death and was smarter than all eleven defenders combined but he was never going to fit a pass to the tight end in the seam with the safety closing.
Here’s the truth: arm strength doesn’t mean as much anymore. So much of the NFL passing attack resembles the college spread game now. Quick reads. Bubble screens. Slant reads against the blitz. Is Matt Barkley going to take the lid off defense and hit deep balls like Brady or Rodgers? No. But there’s probably only 6-8 quarterbacks who can do that.
You know who was critiqued for a lack of arm strength early in his pro career? Drew Brees. You know neve had a particularly strong arm? Peyton Manning. Barkley not only hasn’t struggled with arm strength. He has played one game in a storm and another in -10 wind chill. On both occasions he threw it beautifully.
Answer #3. Pack Mentality
It would suck to be the one member of the media to say, “Go with Barkley” and then be wrong. Brad Biggs would shove your lunch tray onto the cafeteria floor. Adam Jahns would put you in a locker.
Think of the things you’ve heard.
- “Barkley is a backup. Not a starter.” What the hell does this mean? Through four games you’ve seen enough to believe Barkley can play quarterback at pro level but not enough to believe he should start the games?
- “Barkley is playing well but Bears should still draft a QB in the first round.” Okay, why? If the Bears had drafted Dak Prescott last year in the fourth round and he delivered the four games Barkley just did, would you be making the same argument?
Both of these opinions have the same subtext. Yes, I’m seeing a capable quarterback but I am going to choose a conservative route, not totally believe it, and encourage the Bears to bring in additional help.
Answer #4. Nobody Has Any Idea What They’re Talking About…
…but everybody thinks they do.
Isn’t this just possible? The truth is Barkley has earned the opportunity to compete for he starting role. All the rest is noise.