Saturday, January 7, 2012

Is Matt Flynn An Upgrade?

The short answer is, it all depends on what you want out of a QB.

That was my attempt at being mysterious.  I am all about the longer answer anyway, so here goes.

There is some buzz right now that Seattle is interested in Mr. Matt Flynn.  Why wouldn't they be?  To a front office committed to turning over every rock, and committed to always getting more picks, the idea of getting a free agent QB from Green Bay who upgrades the team has to be attractive.  This is one rock that definitely will be turned over.

First off, Flynn should be free to sign as a free agent.  The Packers have free agents to retain this year who could absorb the franchise tag, primarily Finley. The new CBA supposedly has some rules to prevent teams from tagging players they don't actually intend to retain, a la Matt Cassel, and the Packers, while not against the cap, are not way below it either.  That doesn't mean that Ted Thompson won't test those rules. If Finley is signed during the team's exclusive negotiating window, it would leave Flynn free for that.

Flynn will be a hot commodity.  His last performance is still echoing around the league; when you set a team record for touchdown passes in a game, there will be echoes.  A closer examination of his passing in that game shows that three of those passes for touchdowns were pretty much all YAC, but the passes that set them up were decent.  Watch every pass in that game and it is hard to think of all 480 yards as having been earned the hard way, as Detroit's secondary looked almost disinterested in tackling or covering, but it was accomplished in wind and light snow, which is a scouting consideration.  Potentially, Seattle could play critical future playoff games in places like Green Bay, Chicago, and New York, and a quarterback who doesn't shrivel in the winter is important.

Flynn is a fit Seattle's offense in most respects.  He fits the bill as a point guard quarterback.  Athletic enough and mobile enough, Flynn did an above average job against Detroit of identifying and then exploiting match ups.  He is not a laser armed surgeon, and expecting him to dissect a defense by fitting the ball into tight spaces 30 yards down field would be a disaster, but Seattle's offense does not do that much anyway.  In fact, in watching Flynn against Detroit, a lot of the playcalls were eerily similar to Seattle OC Darell Bevell's - everything just looked better.  Maybe because his targets are better players. 

Here are some of the things Flynn does better than Tarvaris Jackson:

- Flynn throws to single coverage even if the player looks covered.  Mike Williams languished in Seattle while healthy this year because he simply does not create separation.  Tarvaris seems to need to see separation in order to pull the trigger.  It was clear against Detroit that Flynn knows where the matchups are, and if a defense single-covers them, he will throw the ball there and let his playmaker make a play.

- Flynn throws with clutter and debris at his back and feet better.  TJ tends to react to pressure by relying on his arm strength while falling out of his throw, and that is if he didn't pull the ball (and his eyes) down and ramble into a sack. Flynn steps into his throw properly.  He has to - his arm is clearly not as strong as Jackson's.  Which is okay, because...

- Flynn has quicker recognition.  I think a lot of this is tied to Tarvaris really needing to see separation before he will throw.  He ends up needing that superior arm because he waits that extra second for a player to come open.  Sometimes I get the impression that Tarvaris actually throws the ball just as the window is closing.

- Flynn uses the entire field better.  Jackson is numerically and visually terrible at using the middle of the field, like a point guard who can't throw a post up lob.  If Seattle plans on exploiting its tight ends properly in the future, Flynn most definitely is better at this.  He threw more touchdowns to tight ends in one game than Jackson did in one season.  Yes, there are many good reasons Seattle did not target tight ends as much as Green Bay, but a pass catching position with no touchdowns speaks volumes.  Particularly when you consider that Miller did not get his payday to be a 3rd tackle.

Where Flynn really lacks is arm strength.  His arm is below average, there is no other way to describe it.  He will get picked on occasion just because a pass hung out there too long.  Those of you who hated Matt Hasselbeck's rainbows will not find Flynn too much different.  

I can't honestly say that Seattle could not do better in the draft, but currently it appears that everything Seattle could get in the draft without trading picks is both developmental and speculative in overall quality.  Even the one player Seattle could conceivably trade up for, uber playmaker Robert Griffin III, is an NFL mystery with his spread roots, mechanical shortcomings, and scrambling style that looks custom-made for frequent smashing from NFL defenses.

A player like Flynn creates several questions for the Seahawks to consider.  He clearly uses the playmakers in Green Bay better than Jackson is using the playmakers in Seattle, but will the extra touchdowns be enough to offset the probability that he will also have more turnovers?  Pete's philosophy includes a view of turnovers that borders on phobic.

Another question to consider: is a possibly incremental upgrade at quarterback really that important, or should Seattle be more focused on developing a more prototypical quarterback who can exploit an ever more pass-oriented league?  Can a player like Flynn be signed to a deal that allows the Seahawks to cut ties with him after 2 or 3 years without huge cap implications in the years that follow? Or will a contract with Flynn handcuff Seattle to him in the long term, like Kansas City is handcuffs to Cassell and the Cardinals to Kolb?

And maybe the most unanswerable question, how much ceiling does Flynn have left?

I am not advocating that Seattle sign Matt Flynn.  In fact, even though I think he mostly fits what Seattle wants to do, I am not a fan of the major commitment for a moderate upgrade.  The part of me that just can't stand the thought of rolling with Tarvaris is yelling at my typing digits as I write this, but Flynn is not the real answer, he is only the easy answer.


  1. Not sure about the mobility side of things, he doesn't tend to extend plays and stays in the pocket - while he rarely runs bootlegs. I suspect the Seahawks are looking for a stronger arm and that ability to get out of the pocket on select play calls. They run a lot of developing routes that I'm not sure Flynn can exploit.

  2. We don't need the #1 QB. We just need somebody clearly better than Smith, Kolb, Skelton, and Bradford. Tarvaris Jackson isn't. Is Flynn?

  3. @Jon If he is better than them, it isn't by a wide margin.

    @Anon. Flynn was more than adequate with mobility against Detroit's front 4. He would not be on Green Bay's team if they didn't like his mobility, it is a trait they value. And one easily seem in his limited NFL experience.

  4. I tend to agree with the post. We already have someone who can play the position but isn't the final answer. Find a player you can get excited about and start him or groom him.

  5. Flynn just feels like yet another QB we'd be "settling" for.

  6. I strongly disagree with your claim that Flynn's arm strength is below NFL average. In fact his arm strength is above NFL average and he has shown it on multiple occasions.

    Here is Bucky Brooks on Flynn, who includes this about his arm strength:

    "Flynn's status as a late-round pick often obscures his talent as a passer, but from a physical perspective, he has all the goods. Flynn can make the requisite throws from the pocket with outstanding velocity, and his arm strength rates above average by pro standards."

    Further down under the section on his arm he states:

    "He also displayed excellent deep-ball touch and accuracy, connecting on a few vertical throws delivered to the receiver's outside shoulder. His ability to drop the ball in the bucket showcased precise ball placement and allowed his receivers to haul in passes despite defenders being nearby."

    Have a look at the article at:

  7. It doesn't take a rocket arm to be successful in the NFL otherwise Joe Montana, et al, would have been a flop. Accuracy, poise, decision making ability, and the ability to assess a defense and find the best matchups are far more important than sheer arm strength. Otherwise, TJax would be a superior quarterback.

  8. Agree with the last anon on the relative unimportance of arm strength.

    One thing I'd add to his list or more important things, as yet another factor or as a clarification of what we mean by decision making and/or reading defenses is the quick recognition mentioned in the article.

    In my opinion, the main question re Flynn is how much he will cost us. I'd like to see him in Seahawks blue, but not at an unreasonable price.

  9. Arm strength is of tremendous importance as the NFL shifts away from the run-based stuff of Joe Montana's day. You can analyze and decision a defense all day, but if you don't have the strength to zip the ball into tight windows, you become an interception risk and thus dependent on a timing or spread offense that's difficult to pull off. Weak arms can be schemed, but in general, having a strong arm is definitely a plus for punching through a defense and elevating your team.

  10. I am not interested in giving $15 million per year to a guy who hasn't proven that he can be an elite, full time starter in this league. Flynn and GB are hoping Seattle will pop for the money so they can collect the big pay day and compensation pick. He had a great day against Detroit. If he could play like that every time Green Bay would be starting him instead of Aaron Rogers. They certainly would have given him more starts to showcase him before his contract ran out.

  11. As much as I like Tjack, he couldnt throw for 560 yds and 6 TDs against a scout team

  12. I agree, Anon...I think Flynn's best value to Seattle would be going to a QB-needy team like Cleveland or Washington and taking them out of RG3 sweepstakes for us. ;)

  13. I think Flynn would probably be an upgrade over Jackson, but I do not see Flynn as a point guard type. Mainly because he's well below average in terms of speed and athleticism, roughly on the same level as Landry Jones. He struggles to even escape the pocket, much less extend plays or run for the first on 3rd and 8.

    Flynn's arm and high number of tipped balls worry me too. Some of those are tipped at the line from a low throwing angle, while others are tipped at arrival due to reaching the target too slowly. If he had put up 16 games of excellent results despite those issues, that would be one thing. But he's only played in two games, so you really have to wonder if he can continue to narrowly avoid disaster over a larger sample.

    For the price of a free agent contract, I'd take no issue with his signing. Its risky, but for only cap space considerations, its worth it. However, if draft picks become involved, I'd hope the Seahawks walk away. A big investment in Flynn could easily become a fiasco, and cost someone their job in the process.

    1. If he had put up 16 games of excellent results, he would be locked up to a long term contract and would never have the chance to hit the market as a UFA as he currently is.