Matt Flynn belongs. In three extended NFL appearances, he’s looked like a competent starting quarterback all three times. Competent starting quarterbacks get paid a lot of money.
So how much money is Flynn worth? I went back to watch Flynn’s two career starts and his relief outing against the Lions from 2010. Here were the takeaways:
Better than Kolb
It’s hard not to compare Flynn to Kevin Kolb, the trendy backup ready to make bank at this point last offseason. I remember going back to watch Kolb’s outings and came away less impressed.
Flynn showed attributes that are difficult to teach, especially for a young quarterback. He didn’t look like a young quarterback. He went through his reads and saw the field well. He made safeties move with his eyes. He picked on the opponent’s weakest defenders. Most importantly, Flynn threw the ball well when the pocket collapsed.
Pocket presence might be the most important quarterback skill that is almost impossible to teach. Kolb doesn’t have it. (Blaine Gabbert really doesn’t have it.) Flynn connected on passes while getting hit, and showed the ability to improvise when necessary. He can throw on the move while running left and right.
Accuracy might be the most important quarterback skill overall. Flynn completed 65% of his throws in his three games. Many throws were short, but he knew when to get rid of the ball quickly. His misses were generally not by much or “good” misses. I chart an informal number called “bad passes” when I watch quarterbacks. Only 17% of his throws qualified as bad passes, which is a low number. (Trust me.)
It gets tricky to give a quarterback credit for intangibles but its hard not to be impressed with Flynn. Facing the streaking Patriots in Week 15 of 2010, with a lot on the line, Flynn acted like he had done it all before.
He got up laughing after taking a big hit in the fourth quarter of a close game. He threw an interception returned for a touchdown in the third quarter, which was largely the receiver’s fault. A lot of young quarterbacks go into a shell at that point.
Instead, Flynn’s very next throw was a pass into a tight window to the same receiver (James Jones) on almost the exact same route. Completion. Onions.
The overall numbers from Flynn are outrageous: 908 yards, 8.4 YPA, nine touchdowns, two interceptions, and two fumbles in just two and a half games.
Flynn was promising in his outings, but he wasn’t that good. His arm looks average for an NFL quarterback at best. His deep ball was underthrown a few times. The Patriots did a nice job blitzing him in 2010, and Flynn looked a lot more comfortable out of shotgun in 2011. He occasionally held on to the ball too long.
Add it all up, and I’d easily take Flynn over Kevin Kolb from a year ago. I give Flynn a better chance of developing into a difference-making quarterback than Matt Cassel. Most likely, though, you will need the right situation around Flynn to make it work. But he can be a league average starting quarterback sooner than later, and that has plenty of value.
1. Miami: Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is the only coach not on the Packers that knows if Flynn has what it takes. You can only draw so much from three games. Philbin has seen Flynn every day in practice for four years. If the Dolphins don’t go after Flynn, I’d usually consider that a red flag.
There is only one problem with that theory: Peyton Manning is available. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is desperate for a big name to make his team a marquee franchise again and reports indicate Ross will push to sign Manning, whether Philbin is truly on board or not.
Miami is the best home possible for Flynn. He knows the system and they have better depth at wide receiver than they are given credit for. If the Dolphins sign Manning, that leaves the Browns and Seahawks as the expected contenders for Flynn.
2. Browns: This feels like the move Browns President Mike Holmgren wants to make. Flynn fits what Cleveland wants to accomplish offensely. The Browns appear antsy about giving up tons of draft picks for Robert Griffin III. Waiting for the draft allows for a risk that the Redskins (or a mystery team) outbid Cleveland for RGIII, and the Browns get stuck wasting another year with Colt McCoy.
My money is on Cleveland making it happen with Flynn.
3. Seahawks: Seattle has ties to Flynn through G.M. John Schneider. The Seahawks aren’t afraid to be aggressive going after quarterbacks. Will the Seahawks see Flynn as a big-enough upgrade on Tarvaris Jackson? I doubt they’ll be as aggressive as Cleveland.
It’s hard to see another fit for Flynn. If Miami doesn’t get involved, don’t be surprised if Flynn doesn’t get the contract (north of $9 million-per-year) that he desires.