General Manager John Schneider raised his eyebrows. Schneider is not usually a man that is easily confused or demonstrative. He's seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst; he's drafted All-Pros and future Hall of Famers at the same time he's picked up players that didn't last a season before retirement, and he didn't blink. This is why when Schneider "raised his eyebrows," things suddenly matter and become interesting - and one must ask, what was he thinking that made him pause?
John Schneider raised his eyebrows when a reporter asked him about Matt Flynn. And though he's only 43 and been at the Seahawks Front Office for only three seasons, he's seen and scouted some talented quarterbacks. He was there in 1992 when Ron Wolf traded for a Atlanta Falcons' gunslinger known as Brett Farve. He saw Ted Thompson pull the trigger for Aaron Rogers in 2005. He believed in Russell Wilson when no one, not even many of his own scouts, thought he was worth a third round pick.
And he was there in the draft room too when the Packers called Matt Flynn to pick him up in the seventh round, six years ago. To the eyes of many, Flynn was nobody special. Good, accurate arm that can't make deep throws. Solid mobility around the pocket with some athleticism. Good presence and leadership. At his best in a rhythm. A perfect signal caller for a West Coast Offense.
Intelligence. Poise. Mobility. Swagger. John Schneider saw at Green Bay Farve and Rodgers commanding the locker room and the game with such qualities. He saw the same thing at Seattle with Wilson. He thought he would see it with Flynn too.
Toughness was never an issue for Flynn. As a sophomore in high school Flynn was already up early at seven in the morning working on improving speed and athleticism. Two years later as a senior he started for the semi-finals with a broken bone on his foot. Four years later in his last season at LSU he played through a separated shoulder and a high ankle sprain to earn the offensive MVP for the Tigers' BCS Championship.
Stories like these raised Schneider's eyebrows. There are many players out there who has the talent, the tools and the skill to change the game forever, but only few in the NFL have the drive to pan out. It seemed Flynn, perhaps after a few seasons of two of adjustment, can someday fulfill a dream of huddling up a offense on a Sunday afternoon admist a crowd of 70,000.
He came pretty close. But close is not enough in the NFL.
August 27th, 2012: Pete Carroll names Russell Wilson as the starter for Week 1. Wilson was a rookie drafted in the third round.
So where did it all go wrong? How did a player who could've been so good fail to even win the starting job? He had everything needed to succeed; he had bided his time as a backup for one of the best offenses in the league and developed quickly under their eye, to the point where he beat out Brian Brohm, a fellow quarterback drafted in the second round, for the backup spot. Before that, thirteen years ago, he was passed over for the varsity QB job for a more athletic player. He spent four years on the LSU bench behind JaMarcus Russell. In the NFL he was behind Aaron Rodgers for another four years. And every time, Flynn would wait until he became the next man up, until he had the chance to prove something, then rightfully grab it for himself and more importantly, hold on to it.
Take his senior season at LSU, where he led his team to a BCS Championship for the first time in four years and something that Russell, despite his athleticism and dominance, never succeeded in doing. Take the few starts he had in the NFL: 2010 against the Patriots - 24/37, 251 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. 2011 against the Lions - 31/44, 480 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT. Everybody thought that Matt Flynn was too good to be somebody's backup. As head coach Mike McCarthy told: "He's earned the position he's in. In my opinion, he's ready to be an NFL starter."
Unlike most people, Flynn was blessed with an opportunity to earn, and not be given, spots. He looked poised to earn this job and finally move forward out of the backup role.
You heard this story before. Matt Schaub. Kevin Kolb. Matt Hasselbeck. Backups who were brought in to start because they could afford too. And after all, they too had the ringing endorsement. They too had spots of success. They too were passed over until somebody gave them a chance and in the end, they too succeeded in their own ways.
But Flynn was different. He didn't only succeeded, he dominated. In one game he threw for six touchdowns against a first string defense with second string players. He broke single game records seemingly on a whim. He led his team to a fourth quarter comeback once and almost succeeded a second time. Who can list that on their resume?
So on the eve of the February, as the talk of offseason began to swirl on teams around the league, things couldn't have looked brighter for a man like Flynn. After all, he separated himself as the 2nd best quarterback left on free agency for a ever-growing market of teams needing a signal caller. After all, the recent performance he made was only a taste of what he can do for your team.
Add on to the fact that Greg Cosell mentioned that Flynn reminded him of certain traits a well-known coaching guru believed in, and why wouldn't you believe that Flynn was a hot commodity and a potential game changer waiting to be signed?
This was what Matt Flynn could've been. This is what Matt Flynn should've been.
March 19, 2012. Matt Flynn signs a three year, $26 million dollar ($10 million guaranteed) contract with the Seahawks. He had only made two scheduled visits with interested teams.
The first bucket of cold water on the Matt Flynn hype came when the supposed market he had suddenly collapsed. You can partially blame Peyton Manning for stalling as long as he did in choosing the right team to sign. You can argue that when the Redskins willing traded three first round picks for Robert Griffin III teams realized that they were willing to risk for a rookie rather than a stopgap option. Whatever the reason, Flynn didn't attract many teams. In the end, the Browns, deemed a perfect WCO fit with Pat Schumar and Mike Holmgren, chose to battle it out with Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden instead. The Jets were not interested. Denver was busy looking at other options. In the end, only two suitors came forward: Seattle and Miami.
The second bit of cold water followed when the numbers of his contract came forward.$26 million with $10 million guaranteed seemed modest for a potential starter. Compared to the price of Kevin Kolb (6 years, $62 Million), Matt Cassel (6 years, $63 Million) and Matt Schaub (6 years, $48 Million), one must wonder what exactly caused Flynn to come so cheap. Rumors began to circulate. Was it a small market? Other concerns that weren't disclosed? Playing with a team that went 15-1? Why didn't the Packers franchise and trade? Whatever the reason, Flynn's mega deal and mega interest never materialized like we thought it would.
Then when the media realized that his former offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, didn't pick him up on his way to the Miami head coach spot, the hype grew more modest. Questions were asked about the teams' confidence on his stature and about Flynn's personality. If Philbin didn't believe he was worthy of starting over Matt Moore, who does?
"I think we made an aggressive push," Philbin told the press . "We got him in here relatively quickly. Again, we had a great meeting. Matt and I had some conversations, a number of conversations prior to his arrival to Miami. We had some subsequent ones after. He'd probably be able to give you better answer as to why he chose to go elsewhere."
August 20th, 2012. The Seahawks are about to face the Kansas City Chiefs for their third presason game.
After posting decent numbers in his first start against Tennessee, Flynn had a rough outing in Denver. 6/13, 31 yards was hardly a sign of confidence. Yes, Terrell Owens dropped a lot of passes, but he had plenty of other options too. He also played for half the game in both stints - much more longer than what a usual starter QB puts forward.
As the game approached, Pete Carroll surprisingly reports in a press conference that Flynn won't be suiting up due to a sore elbow, giving Russell Wilson first team reps. If Flynn had gave fans a sense of apprehension, Wilson reaped their minds with excitement. A true dual threat signal caller. He was confident. He had a beauty of a deep pass. He was a dream.
Flynn could only thought he was a dream as he stood on the sideline and watch Wilson throw two touchdowns and 185 yards. Whatever doubt the 5'10 rookie had on the minds of his coach was long erased. Three days after the game had ended, Wilson was named the starter and Flynn the backup. The elbow injury continued to nagged him until midseason, and by then Flynn only walked onto the field for a coin toss, garbage time and kneel downs.
Disappointment. That was Matt Flynn's reaction upon hearing the news that he had lost the job. Now the attention turned to Russell. Was this a wasted opportunity for Flynn? Had he chosen the wrong city? Perhaps it wasn't, considering the immense success Wilson had in his eighteen games. Flynn might have been a good player, but Wilson was great.
This is where we are now. Flynn, the once-regarded possible savior of the Seahawks, now relegated to a backup job. He has stayed far away from the public eye; the twitter account he made specifically upon his signing has now been shut down. His appearances on the Real Rob Report are limited and quick. The kid who won a championship with a separated shoulder, the backup who set the most touchdowns in a game on a team known for elite quarterbacks was a bit of an afterthought this season after about Week 8 or 9. The swagger, the toughness, the confidence were subdued.
February 21st, 2013. John Schneider is asked about Matt Flynn by a reporter.
"I think we have a great setup," said Schneider, "I feel very blessed that we have two quarterbacks, two starting-caliber guys. What happened last year didn't really have a reflection on what Matt did, or Tarvaris for that matter... It's so early. Everybody is in the middle of the draft process. So it's not like I've had a chance to sit down with other general managers and some of the people I know around the league to talk about what their situation is. As you guys well know, we're always going to listen to everything and if we're not doing that, we think we're not doing our job. That doesn't necessarily mean we will do something with Matt."
We are talking about how things could have been so different with Matt Flynn. Could it have been different? Should it have been different? He wanted to play in the NFL, he played in the NFL. He wanted to win a Super Bowl, he won a Super Bowl. He wanted to place his name on the record books, he placed his name there convincingly. These are achievements that few can ever proudly exhibit in their lifetime
And all Matt Flynn wants now is to start behind center for the first time in five years. This is just a common dream between boys and men. He might not believe that he has the same tenacity anymore, but it is perhaps reassuring, perhaps comforting to know that there is someone else who does.
"I wouldn't think he would be content to be a backup." Schneider concludes.