Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
Matt Barkley is one of the biggest landslides witnessed recently for professional football prospects. Once heavily recruited out of high school, Barkley went on to make a name for himself in the NCAA as a star quarterback out of USC. He was presumed to be the consensus number one pick...if he declared for the draft his junior year. Instead, Barkley stayed to finish his senior year and had one of the most epic and depressing regressions. His completion percentage went from 69 percent to 63 and his interceptions more than doubled from seven to 15 (his worse as a Trojan). Add him being sidelined from the Sun Bowl that year and being unable to throw at the NFL Combine, Barkley went from lock at #1 to a risky pick in the fourth round for the Philadelphia Eagles and a questionable fit for then-Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s offense.
Barkley bounced around seeing action for a couple games with the Eagles (nothing to even write home about), getting a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals, and finally getting some consecutive starts with the Chicago Bears. While Barkley had somewhat average production as a passer and could throw in frigid conditions (see the 49ers loss to the Bears in 2016), his interceptions were horrid, frequently throwing more picks than touchdown passes.
Now Barkley is with his fourth team: the San Francisco 49ers. Brian Hoyer all but has the starting quarterback job locked down for at least the first few games, but if things go south, which tends to happen with Hoyer, Matt Barkley very well could be finishing the season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. If all goes well, that won’t happen. Barkley has been in dire need of development and good coaching since coming into the league. Chip Kelly’s offense was theorized by many as not being the right fit for Barkley’s skillset as some thought Barkley could do more as a traditional pocket passer. The only team with any stable coaching in Barkley’s NFL tenure has been the Arizona Cardinals, and stability is something Barkley could use. While he showed a massive need for improvement, the Chicago Bears also showed flashes that if he works on mechanics and his reads, he could be absolutely evil. In Chicago, 41.2 percent of his passes went for 1st downs. The only quarterback who does it better? Matt Ryan.
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Weight: 227 lbs
Two-year deal worth $4 million with a $500,000 signing bonus. In 2017, he has a salary of $1.4 million, roster bonuses of $250,000, and a $50,000 workout bonus.
Why He Might Improve in 2017
Barkley showed improvement while with the Bears — far more than his stint in Philadelphia (he never had playing time in Arizona). Kyle Shanahan runs a similar system to that in Chicago and Barkley could just be getting started. Unfortunately, while he showed improvement, he still wasn’t anything great. Barkley has a lot of work to do on his decision making in the pocket if he is going to be a higher tier quarterback. He needs to flip that TD/INT ratio to even have a chance. In defense of him, the biggest issue has been consistent (or at least competent) coaching to put him in the right direction. Given that he’s shown talent in an offense similar to Shanahan’s, and putting him with a coach who definitely knows quarterbacks can help. Barkley has all the talent, he just needs to find a way to put it all together. Coming out of high school, he was compared as a cross of Joe Montana and Tom Brady, and it’s not too far fetched to make that comparison. Like those two, Barkley can benefit from some decent and consistent coaching in a system fitted to his strengths. If he gets a couple years with Shanahan, he very well could rise as a decent threat in this league.
Why he might regress in 2017
Barkley may have a lot of talent, but he certainly just doesn’t know how to put it all together, and maybe coaching won’t help him get over that hump. His interception numbers haven’t cooled, only gotten worse. So far he’s thrown only eight touchdown passes to 18 interceptions, Whoever that is, that’s not a good. While he’s seen limited action in each of his three seasons with playing time, it doesn’t look like he’s made any improvements to speak of. Alex Smith for instance, started playing a bit safer as time went on each of his seasons before Jim Harbaugh. His numbers were still horrid, but we at least saw some progression in his abilities. While Barkley may have the tools, he doesn’t seem to want to put them into play, and he may continue his downward spiral into the league, leaving only Brian Hoyer as anyone to trust with the ball (what a scary thought).
Odds of making the roster
As of this writing, no one has been particularly praise-filled for Barkley during OTAs, or rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. Given Beathard’s relative inexperience and that Barkley has at least shown flashes of talent, the team will need someone behind Brian Hoyer for the eventual disaster that seems to follow the quarterback. Unless Barkley lack of listening or improvement during camp, expect him to be a lock as the No. 2 quarterback on the roster. With one season under a great quarterbacks coach like Shanahan, maybe Barkley can put it all together finally and be a destructive force at the position.
But don’t count on it.