I cannot even begin to express the disbelief I have in myself for penning this article at the moment. If you were to tell me back in August that the Chicago Bears would be down Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer as well as the promising preseason standout Connor Shaw, I’d already have thrown in the towel on the 2016 campaign. Better yet, if you were to tell me that Matt Barkley would be the guy under center in Chicago during the home stretch of the season, I’d have considered not watching a single minute of this year’s action. Matt Barkley? The former USC standout who broke a passing touchdown record for the Pac-12 and a 40-plus game winner in college, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft and has since then gone absolutely nowhere?
Well, don’t hold your breath, but that is exactly what has happened in Chicago this season and – believe it or not – Barkley has performed a heck of a lot better than anyone would have expected. I was one of those guys who started the Tennessee Titans defense in fantasy football when Barkley made his first career start a few weeks back, and boy did I have Barkley pegged wrong. News flash: So did everyone else.
If you don’t count the Green Bay game where he was asked to come in after a Cutler injury, Barkley has thrown 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions (he had two against the Packers in their first meeting). Barkley is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes in 2016 and has shown great accuracy for the most part. In fact, his completion percentage would undoubtedly be near 62-65 percent had the Bears not led the NFL in dropped passes over the span of his starting run.
Barkley has come out firing, unapologetically, and accurately. He’s had to work without the Bears’ top four wide receivers during his playing time with the Bears. Until the week 15 tilt with the Packers, Barkley hadn’t had the likes of Alshon Jeffery, and he’s already been without Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson for most of his time on the field. Remember, tight end Zach Miller has also been out. It’s been no problem for Barkley, however, as he’s done everything he can with Cameron Meredith, Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson and Daniel Braverman. The wide receiving core for the Bears has been nothing short of awful for the main portion of Barkley’s tenure with the Bears – like I said, dropped pass after dropped pass has become a regular sighting during Bears games.
Pay no mind to the fact that Barkley has a mediocre quarterback rating hovering around 75. After having not played in an NFL game for two years, and being asked to lead a team without half of their offensive weapons and an offensive line in shambles, he has done an outstanding job at the helm considering the circumstances.
I did not want to hear anyone say Barkley’s name in the same sentence as “2017” and “starter,” and I still echo those sentiments. However, Barkley has done more than enough already to earn a spot on this roster and compete in next year’s camp. He’s been good enough for the Bears to let Hoyer go and stay in Chicago as a backup. I am sure most Bears fans would agree that this is a position that hasn’t been kind to Chicago for quite some time, and it’s an underrated position which the Bears have failed to address in recent seasons. To have Barkley back on the roster and at the very least solidify the backup position would do the Bears a whole lot of good considering they’ve dealt with guys like Caleb Hanie and Todd Collins to name just a couple.
Regardless of how the last two games wind up, Barkley belongs in the NFL – something all football fans have not been able to say for three years. He has proven he belongs, and Chicago would be foolish to let him go in the offseason. Sound crazy? Absolutely. Is it the right call? Most definitely. Make it happen, Ryan Pace.