Matt Flynn Gives Hawks Fans Off-Season Victory

Admit it. You saw Matt Flynn’s last game against Detroit last season, or heard about it, or saw the box score, and spent some time daydreaming what it would be like to have the Seahawks sign him as a free agent. Some of you led with your head and questioned the small sample size, Flynn’s lack of standout physical talent, and recent history with Kevin Kolb being a disappointment in Arizona. Others led with their heart, desperate for any sign that Seattle was getting closer to finding a quarterback who could make the Seahawks a legitimate contender. Now that Flynn has signed a deal, reported to be 3 years $19M (up to $26M with incentives) with $10M guaranteed, good luck finding any Seahawks fan who is not excited.

The biggest argument against Flynn was that he is an unknown. Ironically, the most exciting thing about him is the same thing. He has only two starts, both very impressive. Nobody would degrade his physical talents if he had a full season of performances anywhere near what he turned in for both those games. He has already proven he is capable of turning in an NFL performance beyond what Charlie Whitehurst ever has, or will do. His game against Detroit, where he threw for 480 yards, 10.9 yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns and 1 interception was outstanding no matter how you try to tear it down. Would Tarvaris Jackson have put up those numbers against the Lions that day, even if he had the Green Bay offense to work with? How many other quarterbacks would have? Remember, Matt Stafford threw for 520 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs in the same game, but nobody is attacking his credentials.

In his only other start @NE, versus the 11-2 (undefeated at home) Patriots in 2010, he had his team leading in the fourth quarter. He put up an impressive 100.2 passer rating while throwing for 251 yards, 3 TDS and 1 INT.  For those scoring at home, that is two starts for a combined 55/81, 68% completion percentage, 731 yards, 9.0 yards per attempt, 9 TDs and 2 INTs. Whitehurst, by comparison, has thrown for 805 yards and 3 touchdowns…in his career. Why the comparison to Whitehurst?

First off, that is who Flynn replaces on paper. Whitehurst was the first move Pete Carroll and John Schneider made when taking over the team. They traded a 3rd round draft choice and moved down in the second round for the right to sign him to a 2 year, $8M contract. He had never started an NFL game before arriving in Seattle, and was 28 at the time. Flynn signed a deal that reportedly guarantees him only $2M more than Whitehurst received, without having to give up any other compensation. He’s also 26 years old. Oh, and he had already earned the back-up job behind Aaron Rodgers as opposed to getting beat-out by Billy Volek as Whitehurst did. The Seahawks quarterback situation has been so desperate that large volumes of fans were chanting Whitehurst’s name well into last season. Flynn represents real hope, even if he has yet to earn anything more than a chance to compete.

Most will assume that Tarvaris Jackson will take a back-seat to Flynn. Don’t count on it. This Summer will be the first true open competition for the quarterback position in the Pete Carroll era. There was no contest between Matt Hasselbeck and Whitehurst in 2010. Jackson was installed as starter due to the lockout shortened off-season in 2011. He led the team to seven wins despite several major obstacles. He played through a terrible offensive line in the early part of the year that had him getting hammered every time he dropped back. The team identity was shifting from no-huddle to ground’n’pound play-by-play, quarter-by-quarter. He had a 50% tear of his pectoral muscle on his throwing side, which would have left almost any other quarterback on the sideline. Through it all, he showed glimpses of ability and leadership. He also reminded fans regularly that it would not be wise to count on him.

This team beat the Ravens, Giants, Eagles and Bears with Jackson at the helm. Every indication is that the team should be better and Jackson should be better in 2012. Flynn will have to earn the starters role. In many ways, that’s ideal for him. He does not enter camp with the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. He will compete day in and day out for the opportunity to lead this team. The winner will be the player who can limit mistakes, get the team in the right offense, make the right adjustments at the line, and execute with accuracy. Where Flynn lacks in physical gifts, he appears to excel in managing the game. Read Peter King’s article on him for more details. Advantage Flynn.

Just coming back healthy and with a more seasoned offense would have made 10+ wins possible with Jackson at the helm. If Flynn can beat him out, it means the team can eclipse that level. In other words, if Jackson would be good for 10-11 wins, a quarterback that beats him out could be good for 11+. There will be those that point to Kevin Kolb as a cautionary tale. Kolb cost the Cardinals a young starting cornerback, a 2nd round pick and a contract that was more than double what Flynn signed for. Kolb also had one underwhelming season. Don’t assume he is a dud just yet.

Enjoy the news. Savor the win. There is almost no downside here. Seattle will still look for a young quarterback in the 2012 and 2013 draft. Josh Portis could still develop into a future starter. The only thing that has changed is there is new potential for upside at the most crucial position on the field. 

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