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2020 All-22 Analysis: Buffalo Bills free-agent quarterback Matt Barkley

A (short) review of Buffalo’s backup quarterback

There wasn’t a lot of film available for Buffalo Bills backup quarterback Matt Barkley and what there was should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Barkley saw less than ten snaps until the last two weeks of the season when he played mop-up against the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Yes, that last sentence was fun to type. Against Miami it’s likely the plan was for him to play the second half regardless, but a 28-6 lead starting the second half allowed the Barkley-led Bills to play with house money—and drop another 28 points on the battered Dolphins. Despite limited film, let’s check in anyway.

Play 1

Matt Barkley will absolutely work with a given play call. The time to throw here strongly suggests this play was designed for Isaiah McKenzie the whole way. When the play call is good, and the first read is good, Barkley is pretty dependable.

Play 2

There wasn’t much of this, but you can see some evidence where Barkley was asked to process the play. The protection holds up and this is a nice strike for a first down.

Play 3

Chemistry and accuracy aren’t always there though. Cole Beasley has a step on the defense but the throw is well off target. The disruption in Beasley’s route could play a part but this pass still looks off. It wasn’t an outlier either.

Play 4

This was Matt Barkley’s only interception and honestly it’s not a terrible throw. It looks a little high, which might be why the official play-by-play lists this as heading toward Gabriel Davis. Personally I think this was headed to Nate Becker who was definitely not interfered with. Nope. Definitely not. I don’t know if an untouched Becker comes down with it, but maybe he tips it enough to avoid the interception.

Play 5

This was a flashback to Barkley’s Bills debut when the offense dialed up several deep shots early on to get the defense reeling. Matt Barkley is 100 percent willing to air it out and see what happens. Sometimes good things happen.

Play 6

And sometimes REALLY good things happen. It probably helps that the Dolphins were already beaten down but what a fun pass for Bills fans.


Matt Barkley’s best trait is that he seems to work well in a scripted format. That means there’s a high level of dependence on how good the current game plan is going. Barkley is also not a game manager. He’ll chuck the rock if asked, doing a great job of putting aside previous negative results.

Should the Bills work to retain Matt Barkley? Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seems to understand Barkley’s strengths and weaknesses and can scheme to them relatively well. He’s also a great culture fit and I could write an entire separate article on why that matters. There’s an argument that the Bills could find a more gifted QB2, and that’s not wrong. For me, familiarity and fit give Barkley a bit of a boost. I usually avoid contract talk but that would be the determining factor for me.

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