Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Evaluation of Matt Flynn, QB

I’ve been considering for a few weeks about doing an evaluation of Matt Flynn as a prospective Quarterback for the Washington Redskins. This will be an in-depth post, so it will be lengthy (as is most everything I blog).

I’ve been singing Flynn’s praises for a while now, even before his game against the New England Patriots last season. Anyone who has been following me on Twitter for more than 2 months knows how I feel about this kid and that I’ve been all about bringing him here to Washington. Over at thehogs.net, I’m on record of pushing for him as early as November 15, 2011. I ask that you trust when I say I was a believer in Matt Flynn in the draft and in his collegiate days at LSU.

Now, when I’ve voiced my hope to have Matt Flynn come to Washington, it has always been answered with critics of the philosophy who say, “He’s a backup” or “1 or 2 games isn’t enough to evaluate him.” All but the backup statement are logical. Jamarcus Russell, in hindsight, is a disgraceful athlete. However, in college, in the moment when he was handling business, he was among the very best of the best… money spoiled him. So that alone explains away him backing up Russell. In the NFL, he’s behind Aaron Rodgers, who is without a doubt a top 5 quarterback and a favorite for the MVP this season following a Super Bowl victory. I wouldn’t start any other QB in the league over Aaron Rodgers right now if I had him on my team with my choice of whomever else behind him.

Matt Flynn, coming into college as the #3 rated quarterback from Texas, and #17 in the nation, was sought by a number of schools, most notably, LSU, Alabama, and Purdue. Flynn committed to LSU where a superior athlete (superior to all in college) won the starting job over him to where Flynn had to ride the bench. In fact, every single school who scouted Matt Flynn while he was in high school held him in high regard for his accuracy & ability to make all the throws, ability to extend plays, and his heart/toughness (he was only 6’1, 179 lbs. in his senior year in high school).

In 2005 at LSU, Flynn started the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in place of Jamarcus Russell and led the Tigers to a 40-3 win against the Miami Hurricanes. In 2006, Russell reassumed the role as starter. In 2007, Flynn was the unquestioned starter of the LSU Tigers and led the team to #1 overall with huge wins during the season… losing to Arkansas in the final week; they fell out of contention until winning the SEC Championship, reinserting them back into the National Championship game. Flynn went on to win player of the game and the national title over Ohio State, completing 19 of 27 passes for 174 yards with 4 TD’s.

So to sum up his collegiate career… he was held back by the athleticism of the guy ahead of him, bided his time, and went on to win a National Championship for the Tigers.

In the NFL, Flynn was drafted in round 7 at pick 209 by the Green Bay Packers. Coming into the draft, there were many things scouts loved about Flynn, but height and inexperience and the fact he rode with a great LSU defense showed up as red flags on their reports. But at the combine, the consensus was that Flynn’s accuracy, release, footwork, and power were all ideal traits. He showed tremendous reaction in drills and was compared to Aaron Rodgers at the time (funny in hindsight, eh?).

Flynn did what Rodgers did, ride the bench. Rodgers was the unanimous starter no matter how good Flynn may have been because they let go of Brett Favre for #12. Flynn didn’t see significant playtime in Green Bay until a game against the New England Patriots in the 2010-11 NFL season, a performance in which Flynn would start chatter elsewhere around the league.

Let it be noted that the Patriots’ defense was not outstanding by any means, but Aaron Rodgers struggled against worse defenses during the year with more of his weapons, having lost to the Washington Redskins the week prior. Flynn and the Packers lost, but Flynn’s performance minus a throw at the end to try to keep the Packers in the game that was picked off, was really as good as you could have hoped against a Patriots team fielding eventual league MVP Tom Brady. Flynn was 24 of 37 for 251 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT, with a 100.8 rating. That’s about as good a day you can ask out of a backup against Tom Brady in his third year in the league.

Flynn then got 1 start this year, in week 17 of the NFL season after the Packers had locked homefield advantage, against playoff bound division rival Detroit Lions. In the game, Flynn went 31 of 44 for 480 yards, 6 TD’s, 1 INT, with a 136.4 rating. The yardage and TD totals are both Green Bay Packers franchise records. What stood out as more important about Flynn’s performance was that the Packers were playing outside, in Green Bay, in January, in the cold & snow, without the Packers #1 receiver Greg Jennings. Quarterbacks are meant to struggle in cold weather and Flynn succeeded in having an amazing game. Flynn also played a lot of no-huddle, establishing his comprehension of the offense.

Now on to my evaluation and why Flynn would be a wise decision as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins in Mike & Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Matt Flynn, as his college recruit report and NFL scouting report suggests, is a very accurate passer. He’s very knowledgeable of the offense, has tremendous footwork and speed/mobility, a strong arm and nice touch, and is very good throwing at all levels (short, intermediate, deep). Even more tremendous is his uncanny work-ethic. Coaches and Rodgers have praised Matt Flynn since he was a rookie for his desire to be in every meeting, practice, drill, camp, etc. alongside Rodgers. His preparation is highly touted and anyone who watched his two starts in the NFL know exactly how dedicated he is to studying.

Now to break down Flynn’s game a little more. Flynn is very good at reading defenses before the snap (his TD pass to Jordy Nelson in the redzone is a prime example) and even better at reading defenses following the snap. Flynn is an excellent passer… he throws his receivers open and finds the open receiver, meaning if a guy isn’t open, he’ll get open by Flynn’s accuracy, and if he is open, he’ll be put in position to make an even bigger play. Flynn leads his receivers, which means he controls the game, which means he’s a leader. Flynn also has a back-shoulder throw almost as good as the guy ahead of him, Aaron Rodgers… which is mandatory in moving the chains and making plays on third down or in the red zone.

Flynn also has amazing pocket-presence… his footwork is incredible and he’s good at sensing pressure. He’s mobile & fast, so if he has to get out of the pocket he can. This is also beneficial in the bootleg, because he can get out quick and reset his feet with time to throw or make his decision to run (and he keeps his eyes downfield). He can throw the ball on the screen or to the flat to set up a good run after the catch (something Rex Grossman hasn’t been able to do at any level on the field) and he can throw it 50 yards and hit his receiver in stride. These are ALL translatable qualities, all of which fit what the Shanahan’s look for in a QB, and all of which have been lacking from QB’s in Washington in recent years.

Taking Flynn definitely is a risk, no such thing as a guarantee, and there’s always a chance he could prove to be another Matt Cassel or Kevin Kolb, but I’m willing to reap the rewards if he proves to be the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. He’s more established than any rookie will be (he did play well against the toughest college football defenses in 2007) and has showed he can prepare and play at a high level in the NFL already.

Flynn will come with a price tag, whether it’s through free agency or some kind of sign & trade. He’s an unrestricted free agent though, so chances are he walks. If Green Bay applies a franchise tag to him, it puts them in a precarious position and lowers value on the trade as teams will want to utilize as much time as possible to bring Flynn into their system, one of the things argued as to why Kolb wasn’t solid from the start with Arizona. If it is a sign & trade, I firmly believe Flynn is worth just as much as you’d spend on Luck or RGIII. He’s a fourth year player (it took Rodgers 3 years to ride the bench and another 3 to win a ring) and was brought in to be the answer in case Rodgers didn’t work out. IMO, it’s worth giving Flynn 3 years while you groom someone else in case he doesn’t work out. I’m definitely willing to bet Flynn makes very few mistakes in comparison to Rex Grossman, who was able to (with makeshift lines, injuries and suspensions to critical players) keep the Redskins in some games and do some good things and will capitalize on opportunities which Rex Grossman didn’t. That’s not mentioning his mobility opening the playbook back up so you can bring the bootleg back to the offense, which is why Shanahan runs the stretch plays with the zone blocking scheme.

And that is why Flynn could be an excellent quarterback in this league, and why the Redskins should pursue him in Free Agency.

Hit me up and follow me on Twitter @Sean_Bishop.

3 comments:

  1. Solid article, only argument is unfortunately with as weak a team as Washington has, its tough to say if Flynn could come in and be even half as effective as he was in his starts for the Packs. Granted like you said, he certainly would elevate the play of the offensive players around him, unfortunately there comes a ceiling because of an average offensive line and receiving squad.
    With a big receiver, possibly through the draft, and more consistent line play though he just might be a good fit.

    Either way great article, you should write for a professional paper.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great, great stuff. One question though. In this line:

    If it is a sign & trade, I firmly believe Kolb is worth just as much as you’d spend on Luck or RGIII.

    Should that be Flynn instead of Kolb?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @MonkeyHouse sorry, that's precisely what I meant, lol. Had just mentioned Kolb the sentence before, and as you can see, it was a little late writing it up. Appreciate you pointing that out to me.

      Delete