After Luck and Griffin, Is Matt Flynn the Next Best Option?

Story posted March 5, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Mike Penrose



The blueprint for success in the NFL has been laid out. The worn out phrase "Defense wins championships" has been replaced by "Quarterbacks win championships."

In recent years, quarterbacks have revolutionized offenses and the entire game of football. This season alone, three quarterbacks passed for over 5,000 yards, with six others going over the 4,000 yard mark. Six of those nine signal callers took their team to the playoffs.

Does that mean that all of the teams currently on the outside looking in are doomed? Not necessarily. This offseason, more than any other in memory, will provide the teams dwelling at the bottom of the league with the opportunity to immediately jump into contention.

In 2011, rookie quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton seriously tested in the age old theory that first year quarterbacks should sit on the bench and watch a mentor with their play in Carolina and Cincinnati.

Even more is expected out of this year's draft class, a class headlined by Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Luck is one of the most NFL ready quarterbacks of all-time. Griffin, meanwhile, is a physical specimen whose dominating performance won him the Heisman Trophy.

But teams outside of the top three picks are most likely out of the running for these two quarterbacks. Indianapolis is prepared to select Luck with the first pick, while St. Louis is looking to deal the second pick to the team with the most to give up for Griffin.

For the teams that cannot grab one of these two franchise quarterbacks, there are still some possible answers. The selection of Luck has led the Colts to begin shopping longtime quarterback Peyton Manning. While Manning has been arguably the best quarterback of the last decade, he will have to answer questions about the neck surgeries that cost him the 2011 season. Not only is Manning injured, but he is also aging: he turns 36 in March.

A more affordable and younger option on the market is Green Bay backup Matt Flynn. With Aaron Rodgers firmly in place as the starter, the Packers have found a trade piece in Flynn.

Flynn is 26 years old and has been backing Rodgers since 2008. He started in college at LSU and was the MVP of the National Championship Game in 2008. Despite that résumé, Flynn has only started two NFL games in his career.

His first start came in 2010 against New England, and he played solidly. But the game that caught the attention of NFL scouts came in week 17 in 2011. Against Detroit, Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns, setting single game records for his franchise.

The sample size is small, but Flynn showed a lot of talent in those games. But several NFL teams in need of quarterback help will be mulling over just how talented he is in the next few weeks.

It is not set in stone that the Packers will part ways with Flynn. They have the option to use their franchise tag on him if they intend to trade him. While on the surface it may seem odd to give $14.4 million to a backup when the starter is owed just $8 million, it would make sense for Green Bay to retain him if they believe they can get good draft picks in a trade.

Trading for unproven quarterbacks has had mixed results in the NFL. It worked out well for the Houston Texans in 2007 when they acquired Atlanta Falcons backup Matt Schaub for two second round picks and a swap of first round picks. On the other hand, Kansas City's Matt Cassel and Arizona's Kevin Kolb have largely been disappointments after their big deals.

Teams interested in Flynn are hoping he follows the career path of another former Green Bay backup quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck. After backing up Brett Favre for several seasons, Hasselbeck went on to play in three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl while starting for the Seattle Seahawks.

If Flynn ends up like Schaub or Hasselbeck, the team who trades for him or signs him will soon find themselves with not only a franchise quarterback, but in position to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

What teams are likely to enter the Flynn sweepstakes? The most speculated suitor has been the Miami Dolphins. After hiring former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as their head coach, the Dolphins would seem to be the perfect fit. Flynn would join an offense with a foundation already built around him: wide receiver Brandon Marshall, running back Reggie Bush and All-Pro offensive tackle Jake Long.

The concern for the Dolphins, however, is what happened in 2006. That year, they traded for Daunte Culpepper instead of Drew Brees. Picking the wrong quarterback on the market set the team back for years. They will be careful to avoid a similar predicament in analyzing the quarterback market.

If Miami decides not to pursue Flynn, another team will surely jump at the opportunity. It may be worth the risk, for having an elite quarterback is a prerequisite for success in today's NFL. And unfortunately for many teams, there are not too many elite quarterbacks out there.

Mike Penrose is a senior majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email mfp5044@psu.edu.