The Browns signing of a CFL backup quarterback seems, on the surface, to be the team's most curious move since signing a failed CFL and Community College player named Ben Gay. Looking at Barnes' history, though, reveals promise as yet unrealized.
Like many street free agents signed after the end of a season, Pat Barnes has seen the world. Wherever he goes, his promise seems to stir talk, but the quarterback, who will be 28 by the time training camp starts, has yet to find a home.
Barnes first came to the attention of football watchers as a star quarterback at Cal, where he started a couple of games as a freshman and emerged as a budding star through his college career. Barnes played for Steve Mariucci at Cal, where he threw 420 passes during the 1996 season, and learned Mariucci's version of the West Coast offense. Barnes gained the reputation as a QB who spread the ball out to all his recievers, and threw very well on the run. He set a Pac-10 record for touchdowns in 1996, and had a 31-8 touchdown to interception ratio. Barnes finished the year as a second-team All-American selection behind Jake Plummer.
Barnes unintentionally stirred up some debate when the Aloha Bowl selected Cal over a likely-superior Oregon team in 1996, partially because of the marquee appeal of Barnes. In the Shrine game that year, Barnes wasn't impressive in workouts, it was later discovered that he was playing with a break in his forearm. Despite the injury (discovered later), Barnes raised eyebrows by throwing three touchdowns on four possessions in the first quarter. Barnes was voted MVP of the Bowl game.
The injury may explain his slip in the draft, as Barnes was considered a possibility to go as high as the second or third round when he graduated in 1996. He was finally snatched up by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round that year.
Since then, searching the news turns up Barnes all over the planet. He got into a game with the Saints 1999... Played for San Francisco of the XFL... a cup of coffee with the Raiders... Was all over NFL Europe, where he set several records... briefly hooked up with the San Fran 49ers, signed three times by Mariucci and appearing in a game against the Steelers... and wound up going into the CFL in 2001. Barnes is difficult to stop when he gets on a roll, game reports indicate, with phrases such as "firing darts" appearing frequently when the quarterback had a good performance. Barnes is primarily effective in the short passing game, where he reads defenses quickly.
Barnes was again the subject of mild controversy when he was traded from Calgary to Winnipeg right before the Ottawa CFL team was set to grab him in a CFL expansion draft. Ottawa was less than pleased. When Winnipeg signed QB Khari Jones to a contract, Barnes was slated for a backup role and even considered retirement, a year after being on the cover of the CFL's media guide.
Now, however, at an advanced age for someone trying to break into the NFL, Pat Barnes is trying to follow Kurt Warner and Tommy Maddox as well-travelled quarterbacks who catch on in the NFL. With Tim in front of him, Barnes would seem to have a long way to climb. In these days of Warner and Maddox, though, no one can say that the dream is impossible to achieve.
After all, by now almost everyone knows that Tommy Maddox won the XFL championship with the LA Xtreme and then went on to be a breakout star this year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But, can anyone name the quarterback who led the opposing team into the XFL Championship Game?
The answer: Pat Barnes.