Matt Barkley's fall 'a perfect storm' for Eagles

Posted: April 30, 2013

TWO OF THE top college quarterbacks in the country faced off at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Oct. 29, 2011, combining for 614 passing yards, six touchdown passes and 104 points.

USC quarterbacks coach Clay Helton watched Stanford's Andrew Luck and the Trojans' Matt Barkley lead their teams up and down the field, Stanford ultimately winning, 56-48, in triple overtime.

"You knew it was a really special time," Helton said yesterday. "That you were looking at some guys that were - wow, these are two really special athletes out here. The competition, the plays they made, with everybody watching . . . Those are the things I'll remember about Matt. He performs at the highest level when the pressure's at its most."

Luck, 29 of 40 for three TDs for 330 yards and a potential killer interception that day late in regulation, went on to become the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, and then to a spectacular rookie season with the Colts. Barkley, 28 of 45 for 284 yards, three TDs and a pick in the loss, had a year of eligibility left, decided not to come out among a strong draft group of quarterbacks, and was immediately hailed as the likely No. 1 overall pick in 2013.

But they just held the 2013 draft, and as you probably know, Barkley was not the first overall selection, even among a comparatively weak 2013 QB class that featured only one selection at that position in each of the first three rounds. None of those QBs - EJ Manuel (16th overall, to Buffalo), Geno Smith (39th, to the New York Jets) or Mike Glennon (73rd, to Tampa Bay) - happened to be named Matt Barkley.

Barkley lasted until the third and final day of the draft, whereupon the Eagles, having concluded during the overnight break between the third and fourth rounds that he "stuck out like a sore thumb," general manager Howie Roseman said, traded up a few spots to take him 98th overall, with the first selection of the fourth round.

New Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who recalled the poise Barkley showed as a freshman starter coming into Oregon's Autzen Stadium, said the Birds rated him among the top 50 overall prospects in the draft.

Obviously, other teams did not. What happened to a quarterback many observers felt would have been a top 10-type selection even among the 2012 draft stars, perhaps right behind Luck and second overall pick Robert Griffin III?

One thing to remember is that people saying Barkley projected as a top 10-pick last year doesn't translate into a guarantee. Had he come out a year ago, he presumably would have thrown at the combine, run the 40 and so on. Barkley, a heady 6-2, 227-pound quarterback who doesn't have a howitzer arm, might not have blown people away with measurables.

But there was more to the decline in fortune that might have cost Barkley upwards of $10 million, a convergence of several factors that a league source close to Barkley called "a perfect storm" when the source spoke to provide background yesterday.

First, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil did come out in the 2012 draft, going fourth overall. That changed some things for Barkley and the Trojans last fall. "We had a young offensive line that was growing up," said Helton, who took over offensive coordinator responsibilities at the end of the season.

Their offensive line wasn't good and their defense, it turned out, was awful. The Trojans, ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press at the start of the season, finished it an unranked 7-6, with a Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Barkley couldn't play in the bowl, after suffering a sprained right, throwing, shoulder during a Nov. 17 loss to UCLA.

Barkley ended up throwing 36 touchdown passes as a senior, to go with 39 as a junior, for a 2-year total of 75, which is a whole lot, but he also had thrown 15 2012 interceptions by the time he got hurt, several of them generated by questionable decisions.

He didn't need shoulder surgery, but it was a significant separation. Barkley couldn't throw at the Senior Bowl or the combine. He did throw at USC's March 27 pro day, and for teams including the Eagles when they came to work him out, but he was not quite 100 percent, a league source said.

So, Barkley dropped, and Kelly, who might have gone into the draft thinking he'd need to wait to next year to select his signature quarterback, just might have found that guy in the fourth round this year. Or not. Barkley is never going to throw the ball through a brick wall, or dazzle with footwork in the read-option. While Barkley's upside, some observers feel, is Drew Brees with a little more size, he also could be Kevin Kolb.

"I'm good to go," for rookie minicamp starting May 10, Barkley told reporters in a conference call Saturday. "I just can't wait to get into minicamps and prove myself and show that I do have a strong arm, and I am capable of playing in this league, and playing strong."

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 think [Barkley] has a great skill set to be able to move around the pocket," Kelly said. "Are we going to run Matt 10 times a game and design quarterback runs? No."

Kelly also stood up for Barkley's arm strength.

"When I watched him in person, I think he can deliver the ball," Kelly said. "Sometimes the arm strength aspect of it is overrated, because people are trying to paint it with a [broad] brush. We're not trying to knock over milk cartons at a county fair. It's about if you can put the ball in the right spot at the right time. I've seen that over the course of Matt's career."

"Absolutely, I'm going to come in and compete. My mind-set is, I'm starting Day 1," Barkley said. He was a 4-year starter in high school and college. "Whatever happens, whatever the situation is, that has to be your mind-set."

Barkley said he doesn't plan to look back at what might have been.

"This comes as a breath of fresh air, a new beginning," he said.

Today on Everything you need to know about the Eagles' 2013 daft picks, plus a chance to try to match Domo's expertise in picking the Eagles' Week One starting lineup.

On Twitter: @LesBowen


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