In Week 17 of the 2011 regular season backup quarterback Matt Flynn had more than just a career best day. The Packers’ second stringer managed a franchise record 480 passing yards and 6 touchdowns to edge out their playoff bound division rivals; the Detroit Lions, in a wild 45-41 season finale.
Flynn’s free agent stock was exponentially increased in just one game. In addition to that Packers fans were elated at the prospect of possibly having franchise quarterback Aaron Rogers’ successor already on the roster.
The game against Detroit didn’t appear to be a fluke at the time as Flynn had already made a huge splash in the 2010 season nearly winning a Week 15 matchup against none other than Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. With Rogers sidelined by a concussion most pundits and cheeseheads alike didn’t expect a competitive game but Flynn’s poise and execution in his first career start had Packers and Patriots fans holding their breath all the way into the last few minutes of the game. In the end without a timeout Flynn and Co were unable to reach the endzone but the seventh-round draft pick out of LSU left the game having gone 24-of-37 for 251 yards, and three touchdowns to just one interception.
While Flynn was ripping Detroit’s secondary to shreds there was a conversation taking place in the media. 2011 saw some of the greatest offensive performances in the history of the league.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew had an outstanding year. His 1,980 total yards (1,606 rushing; 374 receiving) and his 11 total touchdowns accounted for nearly half of his teams’ overall offensive output (4,149 yards and 25 touchdowns).
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had 96 receptions for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns and his performance that year helped propel his team to its first playoff birth in 12 years.
Unlike Jones-Drew Calvin Johnson’s performance was greatly assisted by good quarterback play as the Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns on the year and became one of only four quarterbacks to break the 5000 yard mark in a single season.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was one of the other 3. Brady managed 39 touchdowns while throwing for 5,235 yards. Helping pave the way for Brady was wide receiver Wes Welker who in 2011 was having another typically monster year hauling in 9 touchdowns on 122 receptions and totaling 1,569 yards receiving.
Meanwhile New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees set several records during the 2011 campaign. Brees was the first to break Dan Marino’s 27 year old record for most passing yards in a single season and his record currently stands at 5,476 yards. He also threw for 46 touchdowns (4th all-time) and he surpassed his own 2009 record for completion percentage ending the 2011 season with 71.2%. Along the way he also topped Peyton Manning’s previous record for completions in a single season (468).
Yet despite the incredible year so many other individual players were having in 2011 it seemed a foregone conclusion that Aaron Rogers would be getting the nod for League MVP. Rogers certainly deserved the attention he garnered that season. His execution on the field that year was on par with some of the greatest quarterback performances in league history. The Green Bay QB threw for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. It was something just to watch him play and opposing defenses did not want to face him. It made perfect sense that Rogers was the frontrunner in the MVP talks in 2011 and his name deserved to be right at the top of those lists. . . but Week 17 should have certainly been a variable in those discussions.
After passing other greats like Aaron Rogers, Brett Favre and Bart Starr the perception in the media and by Green Bay’s fans was that Matt Flynn could very well be the next big thing. The Week 17 shootout provided a glimpse into the possible potential of the young player and the prospect of another outstanding QB being launched from Lambeau. Many fans took to Twitter and Facebook to plead for the Packers front office to do whatever it took to keep Flynn from leaving in free agency. However; Flynn was on his way out and Packers fans were left to live in the heartbreak of having only Aaron Rogers as their quarterback. Flynn’s final performance in a Packers uniform left most pundits and fans alike with the impression that the sky was the limit for him. His own teammates wished him well and felt that he would be a force in the league. Guard Josh Sitton was even quoted as saying that the team would be missing Flynn and he added that he felt that it would be best if he were to sign with an AFC team.
Flynn departed Green Bay for Seattle and the results since have been disappointing to say the very least.
In March of 2012 Matt Flynn signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks, $10 million of which was guaranteed. By the start of the 2012 regular season Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had named rookie third round draft pick Russell Wilson to the starting job. “It’s not my decision to make,” Flynn said. “I’m proud of the way that I’ve played.”
To say Flynn was outplayed by Wilson in the 2012 preseason doesn’t even begin to do Wilson’s performance justice. Wilson was 35 of 52 for 464 yards, 8.92 yards per attempt and 5 touchdowns to 1 interception giving him a 119.4 rating. Flynn on the other hand completed all but one of his pass attempts giving him a nice 65.4 completion percentage (to Wilson’s 67.3%) but he only averaged 3.92 yards per attempt while throwing for only 102 yards and 0 touchdowns to 1 interception. Flynn ended his preseason with a paltry 56.9 rating. Despite the numbers Pete Carroll took some flak from the media and the Seattle fan base for giving the nod to a rookie over a veteran who had (up to this point) performed very well. The “gamble” paid off and Wilson led his team to a 12-6 record and to the playoffs.
To be fair to Flynn– Russel Wilson is an incredible athlete. He was one of many rookie quarterbacks that took the league by storm in 2012. While others may have received more of the accolades relentlessly doled out ad nauseum in the so-called “year of the quarterback” Wilson was certainly deserving of more than a fair share of the positive reviews. The young rookie was a winner and he played like one. Flynn just happened to be his first opponent in the NFL.
Flynn finished his career as a Seahawk with only 5 completions on 9 attempts for 68 yards and 0 touchdowns. He played in 3 games.
On April Fools Day in 2013 the Oakland Raiders sent quarterback Carson Palmer packing to the Arizona Cardinals and gave up a fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft and a conditional pick in 2015 to acquire Matt Flynn.
Again Flynn’s preseason performance has left a lot to be desired.
For the second straight year in a row Matt Flynn as failed to nail down the starting job. While most teams have solidified the position well before the third game the Oakland Raiders went into their fourth and last preseason matchup with Flynn nursing a sore arm on the sideline and head coach Dennis Allen still on the fence about who will be starting come Week 1 of the regular season. After the Raiders disappointing outing against the Bears Allen stated– “I think obviously we have to look at it. I think when you look at it I don’t think Matt [Flynn] played well in this game. Obviously, I thought Terrelle [Pryor] came in and gave us a spark. I thought he played well in the game. I think that’s something that we have to go and look at it. I’m not going to make any decisions on anything, obviously, tonight. I want to get a chance to go back and look at the tape and see how things went. But it was obvious that Terrelle gave us a little bit of a spark tonight.”
Allen was being slightly generous to say that Flynn had not played well against the Bears. Over the course of the first 3 preseason games Flynn’s play was at best ineffective. By the numbers he is once again behind the person who is supposed to be his backup. Flynn finished the 2013 preseason with only 1 touchdown to 2 interceptions and he passed for 180 yards. Pryor hasn’t fared much better but winning by a nose hair is still better than being 2nd place.
The Oakland Raiders landed Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in 2011 with a third-round pick in the NFL’s supplemental draft. Now he seems poised to wrest the starting job from Flynn and many in the Raiders’ fan base are in agreement that Pryor is the better candidate.
Again; to be fair to Flynn, it isn’t easy to play behind the Raiders’ offensive line. Through the 3 preseason games that he played he was sacked 7 times and has been hurried on almost every snap. Though it lends some leeway to Flynn’s overall under-performance it hasn’t been lost on the Raiders’ coaching staff that Pryor is playing with the same porous line; and often, he was playing with the backup offensive-linemen and has managed to still outplay Flynn (even if only slightly.)
Flynn’s biggest drawback while dealing with such atrocious line-play is that he is very limited in his mobility. Tyrrelle Pryor has been able to make plays with his legs when the line breaks down; and considering the frequency at which this happens in Oakland, mobility may be the only chance at any level of success this season. Flynn is not the guy that is going to be able to provide that.
After Flynn’s abysmal five series with the first-team offense against the Bears where he completed only 3-of-6 passes for 19 yards and two interceptions he is once again looking at the very real possibility of riding the pine for the 2nd straight year in a row and once again on a team that was supposed to be his to lead.
The point here isn’t to pile onto Flynn. He has shown promise and poise throughout many snaps in football. However it is important to note that at this point the epilogue to his outstanding performance against the Lions in 2011 should be once again causing some serious questions to be raised as to the validity of that years MVP award going to Aaron Rogers and not Drew Brees.
Over the past two years Flynn as shown nothing even remotely similar to the flashes shown in his last game in Lambeau. It begs the question– how much of Aaron Rogers’ success that year was due to his play making ability and how much of it was due to the system in which he plays?
It would be foolish to attempt to classify Rogers simply as a “system quarterback.” The guy is simply amazing at what he does and is unquestionably one of the greatest QBs in the game right now.
But likewise it would be as equally foolish to ignore the fact that a seemingly mediocre player managed to use the same set of receivers, running backs, offensive line and play calling to set franchise records and top the play of every other QB in the league that day.
Nothing can change the fact that Rogers was given what many consider the most prestigious yearly award over Bress. That notwithstanding it is worth noting that despite its own prestige the award has become tarnished over the years and 2011 is no exception.
As early as October many individuals who vote on the MVP award (Adam Schein and Pete Prisco chief among them) were already declaring Aaron Rogers the winner. With 2 months and a couple of weeks still left to play the award had already been sent in to have Rogers’ name engraved on it and nothing was going to stop those pundits from being wrong about their prediction.
While Rogers undoubtedly deserved recognition for his accomplishments that season it didn’t seem then and (in retrospect) seems even less now that there shouldn’t have been some serious rethinking as to who should receive the award.
With the process so clearly flawed as to how the award is decided one could argue that it has become irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. There is little doubt that in the 2009 season Drew Brees was much happier to receive Super Bowl MVP rather than League MVP which (also inexplicably) went to Peyton Manning that year. But to tell a competitor that winning something isn’t important is almost blasphemous.
Brees deserved the award. He had earned the award both in 2009 and 2011.
The passer efficiency rating formula figured largely into Rodgers’ selection for the award as it did for many of his predecessors. 9 of the last 12 quarterbacks who finished with passer ratings of 107 or higher have been awarded league MVP but not every quarterback with the highest rating has won and Brees has been reminded of this fact twice now. Brees (109.6) Favre (107.2) Philip Rivers (104.4) Aaron Rodgers (103.2) Ben Roethlisberger (100.5) all had higher passer ratings in 2009 but Peyton Manning (99.9) received the honor of league MVP. In 2008 Manning received the award despite having a lower passer rating than Brees, Rivers, Chad Pennington and Kurt Warner. Obviously a clearer formula or definition is needed for what exactly makes a league MVP a . . . well: League MVP. Without it the award risks going the way of the Pro Bowl having made itself obsolete in a league comprised of teams and supported by fans that are driven and drawn by the pure spectacle of serious and sincere competition. In lieu of that the award will simply be another joke that the fans care very little about much like they do with the Pro Bowl. A precise formula for how the MVP selection is made would not only lend more credence to the award but would also be more engaging to the fans.
Assume for a moment that Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and many others had not had such a successful season in 2011 and that Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew had still managed to accomplish what he did. Is it too much to ask that a player of his caliber not be overlooked after such an incredible year just because his team finished with a 5-11 record? Wouldn’t it be fair to say that were it not for Jones-Drew’s play in ’11 his team would have clearly done much worse? It seems clear that he was the most valuable player on that roster in 2011. Jacksonville’s fans and Jones-Drew would have at least deserved a serious consideration; but alas, players on teams with a losing record are automatically dismissed notwithstanding a spectacular performance. The players all across the league deserve better, various fans league-wide deserve better. The Who Dat Nation and Drew Brees deserve better.
The days of bestowing this award on someone based more on popularity than play should be over.
As mentioned Aaron Rogers certainly deserved to be in the conversation; but, when the self-important pooh-bahs of the league’s pretentious punditocracy set out to make their decision the body should have excluded those who publicly declared the conversation over well before the ends of November and December. They should have considered the implications behind handing the award to someone who’s backup had bested him.
In 2011 both Brees and Rogers achieved performance levels that will go down in NFL history as two of the greatest ever. There will be very little question that the two of them were the best at their positions in the entire league. What has failed to garner enough attention however is that from that Week 17 shootout and on– a very distinct case has been made that Brees has accomplished far more through sheer individual effort than Rogers has.
In Week 17 of 2011 Flynn had the chance to throw to arguably the best receiving corp in the league. He also had the opportunity to benefit from the 2 fumble recoveries and the 2 interceptions made by the Packers’ defense. This was the same defense that tied for the league lead in takeaways (38) and the very same that had given Rogers 34 extra chances to get his hands on the ball in 2011. Flynn was leaning heavily on an incredible supporting cast. His difficult trials since have only reminded us just how good the 2011 Green Bay Packers were but his struggles also remind us just how much help Rogers has gotten from his teammates.
Arron Rogers deserves the accolades he has received over the years and his success has not been solely because of the system he plays in but he has certainly benefited greatly from playing within that system. If he accomplishes absolutely nothing else in his football career– Matt Flynn has made that fact abundantly clear and there’s a record book in Lambeau with his name in it to prove it.