Chip Kelly Explains Matt Barkley Pick

Chip Kelly has been saying it since the day the Eagles hired him: He does not need a running quarterback.

Yet, many of us looked at his history, saw the team bring back Michael Vick and add Dennis Dixon, and figured the Eagles would target a mobile quarterback like EJ Manuel or Matt Scott in this draft.

Kelly, Howie Roseman and company tossed a curve-ball early on Saturday, giving up a seventh-round pick (No. 210) to move up to No. 98 and take USC’s Matt Barkley.

“We thought a lot of people were going to try to do the exact same thing,” Kelly explained. “We had Matt rated in the top 50 players in this draft. The fact that he was still there, we talked about all along that we were going to take value. There was no better value for us to open up today with than to take Matt.”

Kelly, of course, saw Barkley up close and personal for four years. In those games, Barkley completed 61.7 percent of his passes and threw 12 touchdowns against six interceptions. When asked about Barkley’s college performance, Kelly stole a quote from former coach Sam Rutigliano.

“He used to say that with a quarterback, it’s like a tea bag, you don’t know what you have until you put it in hot water.”

Barkley likely would have been a first-round pick if he came out last year. Instead, he went back to USC for his senior season. The Trojans started off 6-1 before losing five of their last six. Barkley suffered a shoulder injury late in the season and missed the final two games.

The question of fit is one that will need to be answered in the coming months. Kelly’s offenses have generally featured a quarterback who at least had the ability to run. At last week’s mini-camp, Michael Vick, Nick Foles and company practiced the read option.

“We have flexibility,” Kelly said. “We had different quarterbacks when I was at Oregon. And really, the key is playing to their strengths. But everything we do, our quarterback’s got to be able to throw. To play at the level at college football that we were at, or to play in the NFL, you’ve got to have a quarterback that’s accurate and can deliver the football, and protect it and not turn it over and do all those things. The fact that they have the ability to run, I believe, is an added bonus. That’s not the precursor to what we want to do. We’ve said it since Day One.

“In this league, you’ve got to be able to throw the football. And that’s the first skill set that we’re looking for. Repetitive accuracy is the number one quality we’re looking for in a quarterback.”

Asked about Barkley’s mobility, Kelly said, “I think he’s got a great skill set to move around in the pocket. He’s got really, really good feet. Are we going to run Matt 10 times a game on designed quarterback runs? No.”

The Eagles now have five quarterbacks on their roster: Vick, Foles, Barkley, Dennis Dixon and GJ Kinne.

Much more to come.

Tim McManus contributed to this article.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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