By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) Sunday brought more of what we have seen many times this year from the Bears. The Lions’ 20-17 win was a close game that the Bears could’ve won, maybe should’ve won, but in the end the result was the same. It was another loss, dropping Chicago to 3-10.
The outlook isn’t much brighter as we look ahead, with the Packers, Redskins and Vikings on the schedule and all fighting for a playoff spot. Given the Bears’ injury-depleted roster, I doubt they can win more than one of those games, if that. That would give Chicago a top-five pick in the NFL Draft for sure, possibly a top-three slot.
Which brings up another question: Do the Bears use that first-round selection on a quarterback or is there a real chance that Matt Barkley is the quarterback of the future? It’s still early in the evaluation process, and we won’t know which underclassmen will be in the draft for another three or four weeks. What we can answer is the question of whether Barkley can be a future starting quarterback for the Bears.
My answer is no.
Anyone who feels he’s a potential starter is fooling themselves. It’s plain and simple: He lacks the talent to be a winning quarterback in the NFL. I’m still not even sure if he can be a viable backup.
Yes, Barkley has shown flashes of ability in his three games as a starter. If it weren’t for 10 dropped passes against the Titans and multiple penalties against the Lions, he might well be 3-0 as a starter. But the fact remains that he’s 1-2.
What Barkley has shown is that when he gets all the reps in practice and a game plan is set up to his strengths, he can manage a game and keep it close. When he has come in cold off the bench without the benefit of practice reps, he has been horrible. For his career coming off the bench, he’s 36-of-65 (55.4 percent completion rate) for 381 yards, no touchdowns and six interceptions. That’s awful.
As a starter this year, he’s 59-of-104 (56.7 percent) for 720 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Those aren’t solid enough numbers for a starter, and there are questions about his physical attributes.
Coming out of USC, Barkley measured 6-foot-2, 231 pounds and ran a 4.91-second 40-yard dash. He also has short arms (30 1/2 inches) for someone who’s 6-foot-2, which makes him play shorter than he measures.
While Barkley ran 4.91 at the USC pro day, I doubt he can break 5.00 now. He isn’t quick footed and has virtually no mobility to extend plays or avoid pass rushers. While he does have a feel for pass rushers and does a good job stepping up in the pocket, his lack of mobility still hurts him and makes him an easy target.
Barkley is smart, he can see the field and for the most part makes good decisions. He has good instincts and a fairly quick delivery. What he lacks is arm strength. He doesn’t throw a consistently tight ball and can’t drive the ball. If he has to throw the ball more than 25 yards in the air, he has to float the pass, making it much easier for a defender to make a play on the ball.
In Barkley’s first start, the weather was mild and no wind. While it snowed in the game against San Francisco, there was only 5 mph of wind. In a dome in Detroit on Sunday, the conditions were perfect, yet the ball still floated. What I want to see is how he throws the ball in windy conditions. We might see that in one of the next two weeks, as the Bears have two home games coming up at Soldier Field.
To be a successful quarterback in Chicago, a player has to have good arm strength and throw a tight ball in order to be effective in windy conditions. While Jay Cutler hasn’t been as successful as hoped as a Bears starter, he has the physical traits that are needed to play here. To use a Cubs analogy, Cutler has an Aroldis Chapman fastball, while Barkley is more like Kyle Hendricks.
Barkley’s game is all about quick, short passes. He can be fairly successful in that type of offense, but opponents will adjust to take those throws away. Now that there are three games on tape of what the Chicago offense is with Barkley at the helm, it will be interesting to see how Green Bay, Washington and Minnesota adjust to take those throws away.
What I figure we will see is Barkley’s completion percentage will drop to around 50 percent and clubs will play closer to the line to stop the run game. It won’t be easy.
I have an open mind, and I hope Barkley performs well, but I have been studying him for the last six years. My opinion is he’s at best a marginal backup and a solid third quarterback. If the Bears draft a quarterback high, I would much rather have Brian Hoyer as the bridge quarterback than Barkley.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.