Will Barkley be part of Bears' future?
Before he contemplates what his future might be with the Bears, quarterback Matt Barkley remains focused on the present -- Saturday's game vs. Washington.
"(That's) kind of where my head is at -- taking this one game at a time and not getting caught up in the emotions of this sport and finishing strong," Barkley said. "Because without that, nothing else matters. (It's just) making sure these guys are in the attitude of winning these last two games, and we'll see what happens from there."
Barkley is playing on a one-year $675,000 contract. His value has skyrocketed in his first four NFL starts, even though the Bears are 1-3 in those games. Barkley has an 82.6 passer rating as a starter with 6 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, a 60.5 completion percentage and 1,082 yards.
And he's better than that -- he believes.
"I feel like I'm capable of a lot more," Barkley said. "The glaring plays of the last couple weeks, the negative glaring plays, are eating me up. I know those are easily correctable, and I know there's not a lot holding me back."
With that in mind, Barkley allowed himself to take a brief look ahead.
"It's just a matter of putting my head down and making sure that everyone around me is on the same page," he said. "(With) a full off-season, you get the timing down and you get a cohesiveness in the huddle with guys. There's a lot of room for growth with this team."
The question is: Will Barkley be part of that future?
The two quarterbacks who were Jay Cutler's backups when training camp started last summer, Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw, will be coming out of contract in March. After eight years as the starter, Cutler isn't expected back and the Bears are expected to use a high draft pick on a quarterback or to trade for one.
At this point, speculation is rampant and certainties can't be found.
"There's always speculation in this league, and especially at my position," Barkley said, "especially with the way this season has turned out for us. So I'm not even going to go there -- not my job right now."
Barkley has two more games to make his case and build a base from which his 2017 season will begin, whether it's in Chicago or elsewhere.
His long-term goals are simple.
"Hopefully win a lot of games," he said. "Every player's goal is the Super Bowl, so my goals are high. Personal goals I like to keep to myself, but just rallying guys and making guys around me better is always one of my goals. As long as we can keep improving as a team, no matter who (else) is out there on the field."
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains doesn't want to look beyond Saturday, but he says he has seen a lot to like in Barkley's four starts.
"Matt is really a poised kid," Loggains said. "He's really self-confident. He's not an arrogant kid at all. He believes his skill set, and he knows his limitations. He does a really good job responding to adversity."
Two more starts will help the Bears' evaluation of Barkley, but projecting what he can become in the NFL involves some guesswork.
"That's a big part of it, absolutely, is being able to project a little bit," Loggains said. "But as he accumulates more reps and more games started, that process becomes a little bit easier."
Loggains and the Bears already know something about Barkley.
"He's not a fast guy, but he's instinctive in the pocket, and he does have good feet," Loggains said. "That allows him to move around and create. Matt will take this as a slight, but it hides some lack of athleticism. That (instinct) is a trait that's God-given."
Ultimately, as Barkley has said, quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses. Defeating Washington would give Barkley his second victory in five starts -- one more win than Cutler or Hoyer had in the same number of starts.
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