Aug 4, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (8) on the side line during training camp workout at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
It's very easy to make the Matt Flynn to Matt Hasselbeck comparison, and a lot of people have, because both were late round picks named Matt that started their careers in the Green Bay and ended up in Seattle. Funnily enough though, they actually are fairly similar as quarterbacks, attribute wise, - both characterized as QBs with good accuracy and anticipation, and both lacking in elite arm talent and athleticism. This is, realistically, why they were both late round picks, but they were, in fact chosen at all, I would guess, because they did have that accuracy and precision necessary at this level, even for a backup.
Matt Hasselbeck has been the pro quarterback that he's been for over ten seasons because he has made up for his physical deficiencies by excelling at some of the nuances of the position, both prior to and after the snap. Greg Cosell wrote a column about the quarterback battle in Tennessee recently that talked about Hasselbeck's game, and he prefaced his take on the Bald Bomber by noting that "He's the kind of quarterback who must be watched, play after play, game after game, for one to truly appreciate his skill set."
Said Cosell, "He certainly does not possess a big arm; even when he was in his prime, winning division titles and playoff games with the Seattle Seahawks, he was not driving the ball through the teeth of the coverage. Hasselbeck has always, first and foremost, based his game on recognition and awareness, on fully understanding both his own offense and the complexities of the defenses he plays against. He is a director, a manipulator, very discerning before the snap.
"Quarterbacks with limited arm strength must compensate in two essential ways: with precise timing and exact ball location. Throughout his career, Hasselbeck has thrown with outstanding anticipation, releasing the ball before his receivers make their breaks. That's one reason he has been so effective when throwing in the middle of the field at the intermediate levels, especially on seam throws."
Hasselbeck is now a Titan, but this analysis does factor for the Seahawks, as I would say Matt Flynn must do the exact things that Cosell points out above if he expects to win the starter's job and have success this season. So far, in his career, these are the main positive things - timing, precision, anticipation - that you hear about Flynn and his skillset. He's not a power thrower and he never will be. It's the easiest damn comparison to make, but it's actually kind of true - Flynn's ultimate upside, as far as I'd guess, is Matt Hasselbeck in his prime.
Cosell also went on to talk about how effective Matt Hasselbeck was in the red zone last season - another area in which Flynn must excel. "To be efficient in that constricted area of the field, a quarterback must rely on pre-snap recognition and post-snap validation," says Cosell. "He must also have the poise to manipulate and move defenders and the ability to speed up his tempo without sacrificing precise execution."
Again, these are things - poise to manipulate and move defenders, ability to rely on pre-snap recognition and post-snap validation - that we've heard about Matt Flynn prior to his signing and now in camp. Obviously, it's much too early to know if that hype about Flynn will translate to a consistent on-field product, but it's tough not to hope when hearing Hugh Millen describe Flynn's ability to move defenders with his shoulders and feet, and his ability to read defenses pre-snap while Millen was watching him in training camp. We've also heard a lot about his anticipation - as Cosell put it in reference to Hass, "outstanding anticipation, releasing the ball before his receivers make their breaks. That's one reason he has been so effective when throwing in the middle of the field at the intermediate levels, especially on seam throws." How many times have we heard about Flynn hitting his receivers and tight ends up the seam during camp? I saw it myself several times. This is something that was largely missing from the Seahawks offense last season.
The jury is still out, but it seems likely that the skillset and ability that Matt Hasselbeck has developed and maintained in his career are similar to what Flynn must cultivate.
Importantly though, I feel like it's going to be tough to get a real solid feel for what Matt Flynn can or cannot do tonight. This is pretty true for anyone in the preseason, in general, but because Flynn is still new to the Seahawks' offensive system and will be playing rather vanilla defensive schemes, his ability to gain an edge by "fully understanding both his own offense and the complexities of the defenses he plays against" will be severely diminished. The things you can and should watch for are Flynn's ball placement and timing with receivers, his cadence, and his ability to anticipate and make throws to recievers. Watch for his comfort in the pocket. Watch for his ability to use his tight ends. Also, watch Matt Hasselbeck do all this as well, because it's going to be fun to have him in Seattle again.