Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (10) warms-up during the Packers annual Family Night at Lambeau Field on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Matt Flynn doesn’t want Dec. 19, 2010, to be his legacy.
In his mind, it was only the beginning.
That was the Green Bay Packers’ fourth-year backup quarterback’s first – and to date only – NFL start. He was lauded for nearly leading his undermanned team to a prime-time victory on the road over one of the NFL’s elite teams.
In Flynn’s mind, it only confirmed what he already believed: That he can play – and start – in this league.
“He knows he can do it,” Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said. “His teammates know he can do it, and that’s added to his confidence.”
Now, the rest of the NFL knows it, too, and that likely means the Packers will lose the only backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers has had since he took over as a starter in 2008. Flynn will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He wants to start and knows he will have to go elsewhere to do so.
Barring an injury to Rodgers, who missed game at New England because of a concussion, Flynn’s last chance to increase his value will be in this preseason. That process was supposed to begin Saturday at the annual Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field, the tape of which no doubt would have landed in the offices of the other 31 teams in the league. Instead, Flynn never got a single snap because a thunderstorm wiped out all but the first 20 minutes of football drills. The No. 2 offense never got on the field.
“I’m exhausted,” Flynn joked in the locker room on Saturday night. “Really, I am disappointed, especially after you go out there and watch the ones go for a while, and it gets you ready to roll.”
Such is life as a backup quarterback.
Perhaps this will be Flynn’s last go around as such. It’s unlikely Packers general manager Ted Thompson would trade Flynn this summer unless a team desperate for a quarterback knocked his socks off with an offer. He and coach Mike McCarthy would rather keep Flynn because they know they have a Super Bowl contending team and believe Flynn could keep them in the playoff race if something were to happen to Rodgers.
“All that talk is out of my hands,” Flynn said. “I’m just trying to be the best quarterback I can and help this team any way I can.”
Flynn, who at times has been a slow starter in camp, has been sharp in the early stages of this camp.
“I’ve got to show that I’m continually growing as a quarterback and improving,” said Flynn, who completed 24 of-37 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in that 31-27 loss at New England. “That means playing better than I did last preseason, playing better than I did against New England last year, showing that I’m not just staying the same, that I’m getting better, getting sharper with my passes.”
Family Night would have been a good measuring stick of his progress. Instead, he will have to wait another week for the preseason opener at Cleveland on Saturday.
“Matt has gotten better every year, and I’m expecting him to be even better this year than he was last year,” Clements said. “I think he feels very comfortable with the offense. He knows it well and continues to do a good job and will get better at changing plays at the line, changing protections and routes. He’s a solid, solid quarterback. He’s always had the mobility. I think he’s gotten better fundamentally because of the work we’ve put in. I think he’s arm’s gotten a little stronger, his mechanics are a little better and his accuracy is better.”
The Packers might have been more willing to trade Flynn this year had they had a full offseason to evaluate their third quarterback, Graham Harrell. Though Clements didn’t hesitate to say Harrell is the best No. 3 he has had in his six years here, the former Texas Tech star needed to go through the quarterback school that Clements and coach Mike McCarthy run every spring. But that was wiped out by the lockout.
Harrell missed it his first offseason, too, because he didn’t sign with the Packers until May 20, 2010, when they were already into their organized team activities.
Though he’s still far more effective in the shotgun, which was what he was used to running in the spread offense in college, Harrell has improved from under center. To try to advance his development, Clements has been running a scaled-down version of the quarterback school during training camp. Every day before practice, the quarterbacks do one of the quarterback-school drills inside the Don Hutson Center. When the installation of the offense is finally finished next week, Clements plans to use some of the meeting time to look at film cut ups from last season, something that normally would be done with the players in March and April.
“He’s talented and throws a nice ball,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of Harrell. “But we’ve got to see him do it in a ball game.”
Rob Demovsky is a Green Bay Packers reporter for the Press-Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.