Why the Matt Flynn Project Has Ended in Failure
It was confirmed on Monday, via Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, that the Oakland Raiders' fling with quarterback Matt Flynn has officially come to an end. The team released Flynn, but only after paying him a total of $6.5 million for the season. This is only the most recent in a long history of failures by the six-year pro.
So, why did the Raiders' project end in failure? Well, this could have been easily expected when looking back at Flynn's history as a quarterback.
Even during his college days, Flynn could not quite seem to get himself into position to acquire a starting role. In 2004, he served as a backup behind Marcus Randall. After Randall left in 2005, Flynn was given a chance to compete for the starting job against JaMarcus Russell. Flynn lost the competition, allowing Russell to start in 2005 and again in 2006.
It was not until Russell left in 2007 that Flynn was able to finally secure a starting position—if only by default.
Flynn was surrounded by an immense amount of talent on the Tigers' 2007 roster. Despite leading his team to a BCS National Championship, Flynn didn't exactly put up gaudy numbers. During the regular season, Flynn threw for a total of 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and only surpassed the 300-yard passing mark twice.
It was Flynn's four-touchdown performance in the title game against Ohio State that enabled the Green Bay Packers to select him in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft.
So, Green Bay took a flier on Flynn after one solid performance? It seems as though there may be a theme building here.
Green Bay Packers
Flynn did win a quarterback competition while with the Packers. In 2008, he beat out Brian Brohm for the right to be Aaron Rodgers' backup. Flynn never had a chance to start in Green Bay with Rodgers—one of the NFL's top quarterbacks—at the helm.
Unluckily for Green Bay, but fortunately for Flynn, Rodgers was injured late in the 2010 season, which prompted Flynn to get a start against the New England Patriots. Looking at Flynn's stats, it seems as though he played an impressive game. He threw for 251 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 100.2.
However, the fact that Flynn's interception was returned for a crucial second-half touchdown by Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington—and Flynn's lost fumble after being sacked deep in Patriots territory late in the game—does not show up on the stat sheet. That late-game fumble was the final nail in the coffin for the Packers, as they lost by a score of 31-27.
In 2011, Flynn was given another opportunity to start during the last game of the season for a Packers team that had clinched a playoff berth. Against a hapless Detroit Lions secondary, Flynn threw for 480 passing yards and six touchdowns—both team records.
That impressive performance was enough for the Seattle Seahawks to sign Flynn to a three-year deal worth $26 million the following season.
Flynn was brought in to start for the Seahawks to bolster a team that was looking to finally break the .500 mark. Over the two previous seasons, Seattle was only able to muster a 7-9 record.
However, during an open quarterback competition throughout training camp between Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and rookie Russell Wilson, Flynn failed to impress. Over the first two preseason games, Flynn was only able to record passer ratings of 57.4 and 53.0, respectively.
Flynn's dismal performances, along with the emergence of Wilson, led to his role as a very expensive backup in Seattle. Now that Wilson was entrenched as the starter, the Seahawks needed to unload Flynn's hefty price tag.
Luckily for Seattle, Flynn had not put together much tape while with the team. Therefore, memories of his dazzling performance against the Lions while in Green Bay still lingered with the Oakland Raiders, who quickly traded a 2014 fifth-round pick and 2015 conditional pick to Seattle for the quarterback.
Again, Flynn was brought in with the expectation that he would start. In fact, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie had some praise for Flynn back in April of 2013, via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle:
I think he’s going to be a solid quarterback. Now how good can he be? We’ll figure that out, but I think he’s got a chance to be a good, solid quarterback. He hasn’t played a lot of games so that’s what’s ahead of him, to see how he plays. He’ll get in here and compete and try to see if he can show his team and coaches if he can play.
At that point, it was Flynn's job to lose—Terrelle Pryor was given an opportunity to compete, but he was not thought of as a starter.
Once August arrived, it became less clear as to who would be under center for the Raiders in 2013.
During the third preseason game against the Chicago Bears, Flynn continued to falter and Pryor emerged. Flynn was awful to begin the game, throwing six passes—two of which were intercepted—for 19 yards and fumbling for a passer rating of a dismal 17.4. Pryor came in and completed seven of nine passes for 93 yards and one touchdown for a passer rating of 146.8. He rushed for another 37 yards and a score as well.
The writing was now on the wall.
Early in September, it was revealed that it had happened again—Flynn lost the competition, and Pryor would start the season at quarterback.
After spending three weeks on the bench, Flynn was given one more opportunity to start. Pryor suffered a concussion and would miss the Raiders' Week 4 contest against the Washington Redskins. Perhaps Flynn could catch lightning in a bottle one more time against a secondary that was allowing 298.3 passing yards per game.
Not so much.
Flynn completed 21 of his 32 attempts for 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 83.7. An average performance against a below-average secondary.
After the game, it was announced that Flynn had not only missed out on an opportunity to reclaim the starting role, but that he had been demoted to third string.
During a Week 5 matchup against the San Diego Chargers, Pryor excelled. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 135.7. He also added 31 yards on the ground.
Matt Flynn could get signed by the Jaguars right now, and turn Blaine Gabbert into a Pro Bowler... I believe in his healing touch that much.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) October 7, 2013
After the stellar performance by Pryor, along with the team's interest in rookie Matt McGloin as a possible future option at the quarterback position, Flynn became instantly expendable.
Dennis Allen on the release of Matt Flynn "It just didnt work, it was best for both parties involved. We like what we have in @McGloinQB11"— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) October 7, 2013
This leads us to the release of the embattled quarterback on Monday.
Looking back over the course of Flynn's career, the same trend has continued. Flynn has performed just well enough in quick bursts to intrigue quarterback-needy teams. However, when given an opportunity to start, he continues to falter.
After the debacle in Oakland, there really should not be another chance for Flynn as a starter at the NFL level. Each team now knows his history and his tendencies.
Matt Flynn is an ultimate example of process vs. outcome. As is Kevin Kolb. Small sample size + greased-up offense + bad QB eval.— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) October 7, 2013
So, what now for Flynn?
According to NFL.com, he could very well wind up back in Green Bay as the backup to Aaron Rodgers once again.
If he does end up back with the Packers, Flynn's tour of the NFL would come to an end as quickly as it began. It was not a glamorous journey for the quarterback, but at least the aforementioned events put a little extra money in his pocket—he totaled $14.5 million over two years to start one game.
Looking at it that way, it's hard to feel bad for the guy.
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