SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Matt Barkley has lived a suspenseful NFL life since the conclusion of his storied USC career.
Considered a certain first-round pick a year earlier, Barkley had to wait until the fourth round to hear his name called in the 2013 NFL draft. After spending time with Philadelphia, Arizona and Chicago in his first four seasons, it could have been expected that Barkley would remain a free agent for a while this offseason.
Instead, he found a spot with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. New coach Kyle Shanahan targeted Brian Hoyer to be his quarterback. When Matt Schaub decided to remain as Atlanta’s backup, Barkley became Shanahan’s choice among all other free-agent options. Barkley signed a two-year, $4 million contract, including a $500,000 signing bonus.
“It was later in the night, so that day was still a little stressful, knowing everything that was going on,” Barkley said on the "The 49ers Insider Podcast" on NBC Sports Bay Area. “I actually texted Hoyer when he signed here, saying ‘Congrats. That’s a great fit for you. I hope you do well.’
“I didn’t even know at the time that I was a consideration because I thought Schaub was probably going to come with Kyle to be a quarterback here. So when he ended up signing back at Atlanta, things kind of opened up. And I found out later that night when Kyle and (49ers general manager) John Lynch called me. I was pretty happy about it.”
Barkley said he understands and feels comfortable in the offense he is learning with the 49ers during the offseason program. His offensive coordinator with the Bears last season was Dowell Loggains, who served as Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer was on the Browns that season. Last year, Hoyer and Barkley were teammates in Chicago.
“This offense is best-suited for my style of play,” Barkley said. “It’s kind of what I ran in college -- even a lot of concepts that I ran in high school (Mater Dei of Santa Ana), as well.
“This pro-style system, along with the routes that we have, the responsibility the quarterback has to read everything out and get long play calls out and just really understanding what Kyle is seeing and how sees plays and defenses, I think it’s a great fit.”
Barkley ran a pro-style offense during his four-year career at USC. Then, in a bizarre twist, he entered the NFL in Chip Kelly’s spread offense with the Eagles. Barkley might be the only quarterback who has been asked to make an NFL conversion opposite of what has become common.
“I kind of did it backwards, if you look at it that way,” Barkley laughed. “I do think playing for Chip in that offense was definitely a unique experience – to gain experience in that type of offense, running those plays, the zone read and all the different options he ran.
“At the same time, being back in an offense like I am now with Kyle, this is what I’ve grown up playing in football and this is what I know best. Whatever way you get there, the fact that I’m here, this is what I know and do best. Hopefully I’m here for a while.”