Matt Flynn and Alex Smith Both Left Behind for a Younger (and Better) Man
It's a shame really.
Sunday night's game in primetime between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers at CLink Field could have been for the NFC West division lead if only the New England Patriots had managed to complete their fast and furious comeback against the Niners last weekend at Foxborough.
Instead, both teams will fight for position in the NFC playoff race with the hopes of either solidifying their spot or potentially improving their seeding.
At any rate, it should be an exciting game as both teams will come into the game on a hot streak with their young quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson leading the way.
Last week, both signal callers played so well that veteran NFL writer Peter King at Sports Illustrated listed the pair as his Offensive Players of the Week in his Monday Morning Quarterback column:
Offensive Players of the Week
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco. The first Niners quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in one game since 2003 walked into Gillette Stadium and beat the hottest team in football Sunday night, in a cold rain. What was most impressive was the fourth touchdown, coming on the first play from scrimmage after the Patriots stormed back from a 28-point deficit to tie the game. Kaepernick recognized the Patriots blitzing the house and giving him a Cover Zero look (no safety help for his corners), so he found Michael Crabtree for the winning touchdown. Jim Harbaugh has an amazing football player, if Kaepernick's first five starting weeks are any indication.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle. A perfect game for Russell Wilson, just the way Wilson wants to play -- running a lot, playing option football, playing from the pocket. "Whatever we call, we know something good can happen with Russell right now,'' said coach Pete Carroll after the 50-17 rout of Buffalo in Toronto. Wilson rushed nine times for 92 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 14, 25 and 13 yards. He completed 14-of-23 for 205 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson's been such a revelation that, week by week, it's hard to fathom how good he's become vs. the image of what 90 percent of the NFL coaching and scouting community had of him before the draft.
Indeed, it should be an exciting matchup; well, unless you happen to be Matt Flynn or Alex Smith.
Despite playing for two winning teams, this season has to be considered a disappointment for both given the high expectations each had going into training camp.
Granted nothing was guaranteed by their respective teams, yet going into this summer both men looked poised to seize upon the chance to lead their squads as the starting quarterback after receiving deals during this past offseason.
Yet by summer's end, only Smith had a tentative hold on his job.
For you see, Wilson left Flynn in the dust in Seattle during the preseason and over the course of the regular season Flynn's seat on the bench became more and more uncomfortable as he watched Wilson mature to the point of pushing for this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year award according to veteran Seattle Times writer Steve Kelley.
At the same time, just a ways down the Pacific Coast, issues revolving around Smith's legitimacy came into question even while the Niners continued their dominance following up on their division title the year before.
Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse following a midseason concussion as Kaepernick, now in his second year, took his opportunity to start and has never looked back.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Conventional wisdom dictated that Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh would reinstate Smith upon receiving a clean bill of health, but that never happened and the Niners seemingly have yet to miss a beat, if you exclude the mixed results of their two games against the St. Louis Rams.
ESPN's Tim Keown explains that Harbaugh is simply doing things his way:
While most coaches are being criticized for their reluctance to make bold decisions, whether it's going for it on percentage-wise fourth-down situations or benching an underperforming, established player in favor of a younger one, Harbaugh took a good situation and risked destroying it for the possibility of creating a great one. It's completely against convention, against the book and so much against the conventional practice of stuffed-shirt NFL coaching that it might just be unprecedented.
In hindsight, the decisions to start both Kaepernick and Wilson border on genius for the moment, but you have wonder how both Smith and Flynn are holding up?
To this point, both have remained relatively quiet while handling the situation with class; nevertheless, wouldn't you love to be within earshot on the field during their potential conversation during pre-game warmups?
Can you imagine what each of them would have to say to each other at this point?
I'd imagine one will break the ice with a joke, but do you think either will actually say anything revealing about their current plights?
Or will they both have an unspoken understanding of the situation?
Either way, I don't envy them and picture a mostly awkward exchange.
It has to be frustrating, given how both men have struggled during the course of their careers to even get to this point, with Smith finally finding success after being largely considered a draft bust and Flynn who, after years of living in the shadows of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, signed with Seattle over the winter hoping to get his chance to start.
Did Smith and Flynn get raw deals?
Technically, neither did anything to lose the starter's job, yet neither went above and beyond to keep it. Making matters worse is to be ditched by your coach only to then be upstaged and possibly eclipsed by a younger, more dynamic go-getter specifically brought in to challenge you.
Right now, neither look to be part of either team's future plans, but it's a small world in the NFL and by this time next year, I wouldn't be shocked to see at least one of the two starting elsewhere.
Until then, they wait while keeping a brave face and a watchful eye on the action...because you never know. One minute you're riding the pine, the next you're riding the tide into the playoffs at the controls of one of the league's better teams.
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