Today our subject is Matt Flynn, the Green Bay Packers substitute recently determined to be a person of interest in the Seahawks’ manhunt for an impact starting quarterback.
(Definition of “impact” quarterback: A player capable of putting his team in position to win close games in the fourth quarter. On that score, Tarvaris Jackson went 0-for-4 in 2011. Jackson wasn’t the only difference between the Seahawks finishing 7-9 and 11-5, merely the main difference. Hence, the manhunt.)
I should admit, right off the bat, that I know little about Flynn, a 26-year old who has made two career starts over four NFL seasons. I vaguely recall his effort in leading LSU to the national championship after the 2007 season – the Tigers beat an Ohio State team coached by Jim Tressel, which helps explain why the memory is vague – but from there, it’s a bit of a blur.
Flynn went to Green Bay, right around the time Aaron Rodgers, longtime backup to Brett Favre, was asserting himself as the ultimate impact quarterback. Flynn might’ve put on precision-passing displays in practice, but on Sunday afternoons, he stood on the sideline.
So why am I writing about Matt Flynn?
Well, for one, I’m as unfamiliar with him as anybody else is, so it’s not as though my credentials are suspect.
Besides, it’s my obligation.
If the headline for this column were “Hawks’ Carroll Convinced Spaceship From Mars Landed On His Front Yard,” I suspect Seahawks fans would say to themselves: “A Martian Spaceship? Hmmm. That’s kinda weird. But what about the chances of acquiring Matt Flynn?”
Since he gave presumptive league MVP Rodgers an afternoon off on New Year’s Day, and threw for 480 yards (a team record) and six touchdowns (another team record) in a meaningless season-finale victory over Detroit, Matt Flynn has become to the Pacific Northwest what Tim Tebow is to the world.
The sports talk shows on Seattle radio stations are in an all-Flynn, all-the-time mode. This has its benefits – every 10 minutes devoted to Flynn means there’s 10 fewer minutes to devote to Tebow – but the discussion is typically slowed by a roundabout at every intersection.
The callers have no clue on whether Flynn is a long-term solution. Nor do the hosts. Nor, for that matter, do the Seahawks, whose general manager, John Schneider, once worked for the Packers, and might be the only Seattle-area resident able to distinguish Matt the Backup from any member of Mott the Hoople.
Schneider participated in the Packers’ scouting-department brain trust that made Flynn a seventh-round selection in the 2008 draft, but when Schneider and Carroll went looking for an alternative to Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst for 2011, they chose Jackson, a Minnesota reserve, over Flynn.
Meanwhile, questions persist about Green Bay’s plans to fit such potential free agents as Flynn and star tight end Jermichael Finley under the salary cap. Finley seems more likely to be designated with a “franchise player” label, because Pro Bowl playmakers are more coveted than quarterbacks who tote clipboards on the sideline.
If the Packers defy conventional wisdom and designate Flynn their franchise player, it figures to cost them about $14 million-$15 million a year – an investment predicated on trading his contract for a package including a premium draft pick.
On the other hand, if Flynn is allowed to become a free agent, how much should the Seahawks spend on a virtually untested quarterback whose Green Bay career, as permanent backup to Rodgers, has been defined by misfortune?
(Or maybe backing up Rodgers has been Flynn’s good fortune. In any case, it’s adding up to a fortune of some sort.)
A reference to Kevin Kolb is inevitable here. As a backup quarterback in Philadelphia, Kolb parlayed some decent work over seven career starts into a contract – $21 million guaranteed – with the Arizona Cardinals, who landed him in a trade that cost them cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft choice.
Hobbled by a foot injury, Kolb’s quarterback rating in 2011 (81.1) was basically Tarvaris Jackson’s quarterback rating (79.2). It should be noted the Cardinals’ second-half resurgence, from NFC West punching bags into fringe playoff contenders, didn’t begin until John Skelton replaced Kolb.
It’s reasonable to wonder: Is Matt Flynn the latest Packers backup on the verge of blossoming as a full-time quarterback, as Hasselbeck and Rodgers did?
Or is he another Kevin Kolb, terrific in a spot-starting role but a bust as a full-timer?