There is an old saying that goes “if you have two quality quarterbacks, then you have none.” Although this saying is usually predicated towards starters, it still has meaning when you look at the Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback situation. Last year, they begin training camp with all eyes on who would be under center week one against the Redskins, but this year is a much different situation. Nick Foles has already cemented himself as the starter, and with Michael Vick wearing a New York Jets jersey, head coach Chip Kelly must find a replacement clipboard-holder for this season. The two likely candidates are very familiar to Kelly. Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, who both played for USC, are competing for a menial, yet crucial position for the Eagles this season. The two are very familiar with Kelly, as they both played against Kelly during his tenure at Oregon in the rugged Pac-12 (formerly the Pac-10) conference.
The second-year head coach has developed a marked propensity for signing former Pac-12 opponents and Oregon players, as 15 players on his current roster played against Kelly at some point in their college careers. Appropriately, eight of these players played for Kelly during his tenure at Oregon. He may have a slight case of homerism, but no one knows the above-mentioned better than the man who coached for them and against them.
Both candidates have game experience, yet neither’s pedigrees will drop any jaws. Sanchez spent the entire 2013 season on the sidelines, after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason. This took place after his debacle of a 2012 season, where he broke a SportsCenter record for the most weeks on the top of the “not top ten” list for his fumble after running into his own teammate.
As of now, both players are breathing down each other’s backs in this tight race. Sanchez is getting more reps, but both have similar numbers in the categories of completions and touchdowns.
Barkley saw a total of three games in 2013, including two extended appearances against the Cowboys and Giants. He finished the year completing 30 of 49 passes for 300 yards, four interceptions and a lost fumble. The numbers aren’t impressive, but they also don’t paint a very vivid picture, considering the rookie was thrown into a tough spot with having taken few first team reps in practice. Due to this predicament, it is hard to analyze what Barkley will become since his numbers are microscopic when looking at a proper sample size for quarterback efficiency metrics.
Sanchez, on the other hand, did not see one snap in 2013. His last action was in 2012 where he started every game, completing 246 of 453 passes for 2,883 yards with 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He doesn’t have a very comforting touchdown-to-interception ratio or completion percentage, but he has played in a ton more games than Barkley. He may have an alarming 69 interceptions and 43 career fumbles, but he is the better option here, not by merits, but by experience alone.
Certainly the preseason, which begins tonight for the Birds, could change my outlook on things, but Barkley would have to seize the backup job for me to feel that way.
Foles is at full health, but is still one awkward joint movement (God, forbid) away from Sanchez or Barkely stepping in. Sanchez is more than likely the ideal candidate to back him up. He was signed in the offseason for a reason, and it is senseless to pay someone four million dollars to sit on a bench and twiddle his thumbs. Should Barkley be given the backup job, it’s unlikely that the Eagles would do that. They’d most likely cut ties with Sanchez, and make former Arena Leaguer G.J. Kinne the third-stringer. But they did pay him four million dollars to come here, so the backup job is certainly his to lose.
Barkley, a fourth round pick in 2012, is unlikely to see the field much again in 2014, and if he does, it will be in an injury-riddled situation similar to the one that saw him struggle in the middle of last season. You simply cannot send in a fresh-off-the boat soldier onto a battlefield as rancid as the NFC playoff picture.
If Sanchez does it fact relieve Foles at any point in the season, he won’t have as much pressure since he has arguably the best running back in the league standing behind him. This is an amenity that Sanchez never truly played with in his career. LeSean McCoy, and a receiving core that “The Sanchize” could only dream about in New York, may be the life preserver that prevents his career from sinking.
Sanchez may never be a star quarterback, but in a passing league, it is always safe to have a reliable and experienced backup. There is no such thing as a quality backup. If a backup quarterback does indeed have the requisite ability and skillset, he would be starting. Franchise quarterbacks have the highest demand and lowest supply among any position in sports. If a backup quarterback shows any scruple of potential, another team will look to acquire him. The only major requirement for a quality backup signal-caller is experience, and this isn’t based off of how many years you have on your belt. A good backup has a “been there, done that” mentality. Sanchez played in his fair share of big games with the Jets, and he knows how this league operates, and can help younger players translate to that environment.
Sanchez, for now, knows his role on this team, and with his eagerness to revitalize his career, he will be more than capable to step in and relieve Foles if the opportunity presents itself.