Remember back in 2012, when there was a possibility that we could see one of the best quarterback drafts in NFL history. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the top prospects with Ryan Tannehill viewed as a nice consolation prize. However, there was a large contingency that believed there was another quarterback worthy of a top ten pick who ended up staying school. Matt Barkley, who some argued would have competed with Luck for the top pick, returned to USC for his senior year. He showed some major relapses and he ended up being a fourth round pick in 2013. But what if the former Trojan decided to head to the NFL a year early? Nothing is for sure but you can imagine a lot would change.
Barkley was highly regarded but I think it is likely that during the pre-draft workouts, Luck and Griffin would put some distance between themselves and the kid from USC. However, I think Barkley would still rate higher than fellow first rounder Ryan Tannehill. On draft day, Luck and Griffin still go one and two. None of the teams from picks three to seven really needed a quarterback. Miami sitting at number eight was ready to move on from Chad Henne and with Barkley still on the board, the Dolphins would gladly draft him. Barkley would join a Fins team with another former USC star in Reggie Bush led by rookie coach Joe Philbin. If Barkley began playing anything like he did during his senior season or how he has in the NFL with Philadelphia, there is a really good chance that veteran signal caller Matt Moore beats out Barkley for the starting job.
So this also means that there is no way for the Dolphins to take Tannehill, who continues to fall down the draft board. He doesn’t fall too long because sitting at number twelve is a team in desperate need of a young quarterback. The Seattle Seahawks had Tavaris Jackson under center the year before and desperately needed an upgrade. Matt Flynn was brought in as a potential replacement but that wouldn’t stop Seattle from picking up the talented Tannehill. Tannehill was viewed as a bit of project and based on how much the team was paying Flynn, the rookie from Texas A&M would probably be given a year to sit on the bench.
The 2012 season looks extremely different as well. Seattle struggles under Flynn and by the end of the season, Tannehill gets some reps as the starter, but the Seahawks miss the playoffs. Green Bay win against Seattle in week 4 with no Fail Mary game. This means that Green Bay finishes the season with the second best record in the NFC. Instead of Seattle and Minnesota in the playoffs, Chicago and Philadelphia make the postseason in their place. The Bears get a major showdown with the third seeded 49ers. The Eagles travel to Washington for a duel of rookie quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III versus Russell Wilson. Oh right, did I forget to mention that the Eagles snag Wilson in the third round because Seattle took Tannehill? Philadelphia falls next week to Atlanta who meets Green Bay in NFC championship game. Green Bay dispatches Atlanta for a matchup with the Ravens in the Super Bowl where Aaron Rodgers outduels Joe Flacco for his second straight Lombardi Trophy.
Andy Reid still leaves in 2013 and Chip Kelly cannot wait to get his hands on an offense led by Russell Wilson. Seattle is still good but not great with Tannehill under center. They miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year. That means no Legion of Boom and no Super Bowl rout of the Broncos. With the Seahawks out of the picture, the 49ers win the NFC West and the Nick Foles led Cardinals make it as a wildcard. Foles was drafted by the Cardinals when Philadelphia no longer had interest in him in the fourth round in 2012. The Eagles get a boost with Wilson under center to the second seed while the 49ers take the top seed. Green Bay beats New Orleans in the wildcard round while Philadelphia takes down Arizona. The Niners beat the Packers in the divisional round setting up a meeting with Russell Wilson again in the NFC championship game, this time with the Eagles. Philly’s offense of DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin is the Greatest Show on Turf 2.0 and Philadelphia finds itself in the Super Bowl against Peyton Manning’s Broncos. With no incredible defense to haunt him, Manning plays great and narrowly beats Philly in a shootout giving Manning his second ring.
Now some of you might be saying, what about Matt Barkley and the Dolphins? Don’t worry. I’m getting to that. Barkley never develops quite how Miami wants. So in 2014, they are in the market for a new quarterback. Joe Philbin decides to go after a different Texas A&M quarterback with their first round pick by the name of Johnny Manziel. For once, the Cleveland Browns don’t completely lose out because they get Carson Palmer when Arizona no longer wants to sign him with Foles under center, so the Browns don’t want Manziel anyway.
So in short, Russell Wilson is an Eagle, Nick Foles is a Cardinal, Carson Palmer is a Brown, Rodgers has two rings, Manning has two rings and Wilson ends up with none. The Legion of Boom never happens in Seattle and Miami ends up with Manziel. All of this just because Matt Barkley decides to leave school one year sooner.