TEMPE, Ariz. — At times in the past, when discussing options at the quarterback position, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has referred to the team’s options as different doors they could open.
You know, check behind doors one, two, three and so on.
If Logan Thomas was door number three and Phillip Sims was door number four, that would make Matt Barkley door number five.
Barkley is also the team’s third quarterback, following a trade last Friday that brought him to Arizona in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2016 draft.
“I really liked him coming out. We personally worked out him and Logan Thomas coming out,” Arians said Tuesday. “Logan had that unbelievable upside but I really liked Matt.
“He’s the all-time Pac-12 leader in passing and he had a great command of quarterback play. When it came down to the decision of what we wanted to do with the guys we had, first it was looking at a new guy and we decided to look at a new guy.”
A fourth-round pick of the Eagles’ in the 2013 draft, Barkley was taken 22 spots ahead of where the Cardinals ultimately landed Thomas the following year. He has appeared in four NFL games, completing 30-of-50 passes for 300 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. Part of his struggles can be attributed to a shoulder injury that he says robbed him of some arm strength early in his career, though that is now healed up and a thing of the past.
As a pro, he has looked little like the player who while at USC was a top QB prospect, a pocket passer who threw for 12,327 yards, 116 TDs and 48 interceptions as a four-year starter.
Certainly the Cardinals are hoping to have acquired that quarterback, though given what they surrendered for this chance, it really is a low-risk move.
Barkley said the trade surprised him — he’s never been traded, after all — but added he’s excited to be with an organization that, “from top to bottom, really has it going on.”
“So I think it was a good change up for me, and where I was at in my career, and looking for better things here now,” he added.
Barkley, who celebrated his 25th birthday Tuesday, said he was not necessarily looking for a change, a fresh start outside of Philadelphia. But getting one is not a bad thing, he admitted, and he’s confident Arizona’s system is one that suits him well.
While Arians is known to have a complex scheme, what the Cardinals run is nothing like the offense Barkley was working with in Philadelphia. In a way, it would not be surprising if the 6-foot-3, 227-pound QB found more success in the desert than the City of Brotherly Love.
But really, it’s not even so much about the Cardinals necessarily believing Barkley will be the QB of the future, the heir apparent to veteran Carson Palmer. Barkley is an opportunity, a chance that came at little expense.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim, as a guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday, said the passer possesses mental toughness and the ability to process and learn, which are things that excite them about his potential.
“We know that he is a football junkie and the mental part of the game is not too fast for him,” he said. “So now, we bring him in and we give him an opportunity, there’s really not a lot of risk involved, and we see what he’s got physically.
“To me, that’s the way you have to approach that position because they are so hard to find.”
Arians is confident Barkley will look better in Arizona’s more pro-style offense, which is what the QB ran when he had success in college. The key will be picking it up, which will take time. Tuesday, Barkley said it was like reading Chinese, admitting it will take a little bit of time to get the hang of it.
“But it reminds a lot of my college system and even what I did in high school,” he said.
Arians admitted if the team needed Barkley to play in three weeks, he would struggle.
Hopefully it does not get to that point, though after last season — when both Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton went down at the same time — the possibility cannot be totally discounted. There is a bit of a danger, then, in going with Barkley because even if Thomas wasn’t really any better of a QB, his time in the system would have to count for something.
But Arians said the trade was done with an eye on the future, which is one Barkley is looking forward to. He’s confident he can make all the throws required of an NFL QB, and believes in his decision-making, too. It will come down to being consistent, he said, showing teams that he can move an offense up and down the field.
And if nothing else, he hopes to have a better showing than he did when the Cardinals worked him out prior to the 2013 draft. That was his first taste of the coaching staff and organization he is now playing for.
“I threw terribly because my shoulder was still messed up from my AC sprain,” he said, with a smile. “So I’m glad they kind of wiped that under the rug and trusted me and who I am now.
“But I loved them from a personality standpoint and from a character standpoint, what they stand for. I think they know what they’re doing. Steve’s built a great team, a lot of great personnel here. I’m excited to see where this is heading.”