When Chip Kelly was questioned about his decision to run a bootleg with rookie Matt Barkley on 1st-and-goal from the two yard-line Sunday against the Giants, the head coach said that it was all about familiarity.
“It’s a play we’ve run, we’ve practice continuously here six or seven weeks since the beginning of the season in the red zone,” said Kelly following the game, adding on Monday: “That’s the first play we’ve run since day one here. We’re going to go to kind of what we know the best, what everybody should understand is what we’re going to go to. If you ask everybody on our team, they know what we were going to call in that situation.”
Barkley was asked on Tuesday how many times he ran that play personally in practice.
"I never got a rep of that play," he said. "You see it on film, you see other guys doing it and so you go through it in your head but the timing of getting it out, of someone coming off the edge like that, you just haven't experienced that yet."
The play resulted in a lost fumble. If he hands off to LeSean McCoy and the Eagles score there, maybe the quarterback and the team have a different day. Maybe not.
Either way, the disconnect speaks to the difficulty of putting your backup (especially your rookie backup, who is usually the third-stringer) into game action. Kelly was probably telling the truth when he said that this was a play the team has run frequently in practice. It is also very possible that Barkley (generally the scout team quarterback) has never run it himself.
On Tuesday Barkley split the reps with Nick Foles, who is coming off a concussion and being eased back in. He said it was the most reps he has ever gotten at practice. Foles appears to be the front-runner to start in Oakland this week, though Barkley is holding out hope. The constant state of limbo continues for the fourth-round pick.
"It's a little tough," said Barkley. "A lot of things have been different for me this past year, and I'm just learning to roll with it. I kinda feel like a shark who has kind of smelled my first blood. You don't really know where it's coming from and so you're just trying to find it. I'm going to keep swimming, keep pushing on, and hopefully we'll see what happens."
Barkley has completed 61 percent of his throws (6.24 average) in his two appearances with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also fumbled three times.
It has been pretty rough, in other words. Barkley was asked about the adjustment from the college to pro level.
"When people talk about the speed of the NFL, the biggest difference is with the front seven and the defensive line getting after it," said Barkley. "Receivers are fast and the windows are essentially the same I feel like in the NFL compared to college where you still have to stick it in there, but guys condense to the ball a lot quicker in the NFL when the ball is in your hands. I felt like I had great timing in the pocket, I felt the line gave me great time. That wasn't a problem, but just to know that you have that clock in your head and have to get it out, that's probably the biggest difference."