Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn throws a pass against the New England Patriots on Dec. 19 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. / Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
DALLAS — As the Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback, Matt Flynn is one play away from playing in Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
And he might be one game away from getting his chance to be a starter.
After his national-television performance against the New England Patriots on Dec. 19, when he nearly rallied the Packers to a comeback victory on the game’s final series, Flynn might suddenly find himself in demand after the Super Bowl.
The third-year pro, who has backed up Aaron Rodgers since 2008, has another year remaining on the original rookie contract he signed after the Packers drafted him in the seventh round out of LSU. But Flynn wants to be an NFL starter and his performance against the Patriots, when he threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-27 loss, suggests there might some teams willing to give him a shot.
So rather than letting Flynn walk away in free agency, perhaps Packers’ General Manager Ted Thompson will entertain trade offers for him this offseason. With several teams in need of a quarterback, there could be a competitive market for quarterbacks as soon as a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Flynn’s name has already come up in Tennessee, where the Titans are replacing Vince Young.
“Do I think I’m ready?” Flynn said this week during a break from Super Bowl preparations. “Well that’s my goal to be a starter in this league. I’ve learned a lot in these three years. I’ve probably made more strides in these three years than I ever have, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
In the 1990s with Brett Favre as their starter, then-Packers General Manager Ron Wolf made a side business out of drafting, developing and trading away quarterbacks for more draft picks. He did so with Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks and Matt Hasselbeck.
“This is definitely Aaron’s team,” Flynn said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. This is his deal.”
Flynn wouldn’t say whether he’d be interested in re-signing with the Packers as a higher-priced backup.
The Packers liked Flynn from the start, so much so that he won the backup job as a rookie over Brian Brohm, who was picked five rounds earlier in the same draft. Much like Hasselbeck did, Flynn had strong preseason showings but never got a real shot in a game until Rodgers sustained a concussion in the Dec. 12 game at Detroit. Flynn couldn’t rally the Packers in that game, throwing a bad interception in the end zone of the 7-3 loss. But his prime-time performance against the Patriots, who were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, opened plenty of eyes.
“He kind of confirmed some of the things that we thought about him that we really didn’t have a lot of video evidence of,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “He’s very competitive. He’s got excellent leadership skills and the command and respect of his teammates. It was one game, but we like what he did in that one game.”
What course of action the Packers take with Flynn could be in part based on how they view Graham Harrell, the third-string quarterback who was on the practice squad until being promoted to the roster to serve as Flynn’s backup at New England. Harrell, who was signed off the street last offseason after spending a year riding the bench in the Canadian Football League, had a better-than-expected preseason. With an offseason in coach Mike McCarthy’s noted quarterback school — which may not take place depending on what happens with the CBA — the Packers will be better suited to judge Harrell.
“Graham has the mental makeup, and he throws the ball well,” Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said. “Once he has an offseason and can really learn the system, the ins and outs of it, I think he’ll get a better feel because he has a knack for doing the right things when he’s out there in the team drills.”