Quaterbacks with a Few Good Games

Many of us are asking ourselves now, "Has Matt Barkley shown enough to make us optimistic about Matt Barkley?"

The answer nearest the lips of analysts and prognosticators is, "No." Others have gone further to suggest, "Barkley has shown he might be a good backup QB."

Here's what we know about Barkley: He's had a few good games. His first two career starts -- while not astounding by any stretch -- were solid despite conditions beyond his control (specifically, wide receiver drops and rough weather). In his career, as of now, he has a 57.7 rating, 4.3 adjusted yard per attempt (AY/A, average is around 6 AY/A), and a QBR near 30 (average is 50). But lets say, "Hey! Extenuating circumstances! I know he's better than those numbers. The WRs really deserve those numbers."

Even then, we have a hard time justifying a lot of hope in Barkley based on the data. If we pretend he's deserving of more decent stats, say a 6 AY/A, history suggests that accomplishments in your first 8 games don't effectively predict your future career -- either its length or achievements:


Data courtesy of Pro-Football Reference. "cATT" is Career Attempts after the first 8 games (minimum 80 attempts in those first 8 games).

Find about where 6.0 is on the X-axis, and then look up along the Y-axis. You'll find the like of Drew Brees (6.18 AY/A, career 7.51 AY/A) as well as Dan Orlovsky (6.14 AY/A, career 5.37 AY/A). There is almost no relationship between the first few games and the ensuing career -- an R-squared of about 0.12, meaning only 12% of the variation in career AY/A can be explained by the initial AY/A. This is both a good and bad thing for Barkley, though, since his early numbers are terrible.

Returning to that original questions -- Has Matt Barkley shown enough to make us optimistic about Matt Barkley? -- I personally answer a tepid yes. I believe he has shown us enough -- in terms of arm strength, pocket presence, and decision-making -- to suggest there's no harm in giving him a shot. Though, if he continues to stare down receivers and toss ill-advised floaters into double coverage on occasion, and definitely if he maintains his current sickly numbers, he'll join Orlvosky in the ever-amorphous sea of backup QBs without a steady home. This is the scenario and likely reality Bears fans should prepare themselves for -- Barkley fading into a quiet oblivion.

But what have the Bears got to lose right now? Or even next year? Sure, draft a QB, but if we end up in Dallas' situation -- where a rookie has supplanted a once-unheralded, now-coveted QB -- then we'll have only a happy problem on our hands.

As of right now, though, he has shown us very little. Something, but very little something.

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