Flynn, Tolzien make final arguments in win
A year after Vince Young and B.J. Coleman played themselves out of jobs in a preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien may have just played themselves in.
With Aaron Rodgers and a chorus of other starters sitting against Kansas City, the two backup quarterbacks combined to complete 20-of-33 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-14 win in front of 74,059 at Lambeau Field.
It's a 180-degree shift from last year's finale against the Chiefs when Vince Young and B.J. Coleman mustered only one score on 14 full possessions in a 30-8 loss. Ultimately, their combined 16-of-37 passing for 163 yards and an interception (45.2 quarterback rating) forced Ted Thompson's hand in cutting both soon after to bring in a cold Seneca Wallace and Tolzien off the street.
If Thompson's decision wasn't already difficult enough this year, Flynn and Tolzien didn't do the Packers' general manager any favors on Thursday night.
"Matt and Scott have both championed the case to be on our football team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I felt very good about their progress from last year through the spring, all the way through training camp. Based on watching it live, I think they both played pretty well tonight."
Each quarterback threw touchdown passes and led three scoring drives, while alternating quarters. Tolzien finished a few points higher in quarterback rating after completing 12-of-18 passes for 139 yards (126.9), but Flynn wasn't far behind (7-of-15 for 102 yards, 108.9).
While the competition between Flynn and Tolzien was more competitive than last year's shenanigans, the 29-year-old Flynn still needed a strong finish. His 61.9 quarterback rating on 12 preseason drives prior to Thursday produced four scores, but was well off Tolzien's pace.
Starting in place of Rodgers, Flynn was economical on the Packers' first series. Alongside mainly backups, he completed 3-of-5 passes for 46 yards on the opening drive, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide-open rookie receiver Davante Adams in the middle of the Chiefs' secondary.
In his final series in the third quarter, Flynn underthrew a deep ball to Jeff Janis off a play-action pass, but Kansas City cornerback Phillip Gaines made contact to draw the 39-yard penalty.
Two plays later, Flynn hit running back LaDarius Perkins off a screen for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Packers ahead 27-7 and boost his preseason quarterback rating by 20 points to 82.34.
The Chiefs stationed back in man-to-man coverage provided Flynn with some deep-ball opportunities, but he wasn't able to convert. Finally his finest hour of the preseason, that's what stuck with the seventh-year veteran.
"We had some good drives and we ran the ball well," Flynn said. "There was a little bit of rhythm out there. We had two really nice long drives. It was good. The only thing I'm thinking about is a couple things I left out there."
The other thing the Packers must consider is Flynn's past success in McCarthy's offense. After Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo all passed, Flynn returned to Green Bay in November and won the Packers' starting job within two weeks. He was 2-2-1 in games he finished.
Tolzien hopes his improvement is what stands out, which was on display during his first series against the Chiefs. After the drive stalled at the Kansas City 33, McCarthy opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 and Tolzien responded with a perfectly placed ball to Janis for a touchdown over Gaines' coverage to cap an eight-play, 59-yard drive.
When Tolzien returned in the fourth quarter, he hit tight end Jake Stoneburner on back-to-back plays for gains of 18 and 16 to set up a 6-yard pass to receiver Myles White in the back of the end zone to make it 34-14.
Although he started slow in camp, Tolzien played well start-to-finish in his four preseason appearances. He completed 38-of-56 passes (67.8 percent) for 477 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.
That's a good sign for the former Wisconsin quarterback, who threw five interceptions in his three appearances in place of an injured Rodgers last season. His inexperience flashed last season with only eight weeks of familiarity with the Packers' system.
His coaches believe he's a much more polished product. His 112.0 quarterback rating through four preseason games would seem to agree.
"Last year, you're kind of really pressing to kind of learn that week's game plan and you might be missing some of the main basics of certain plays," Tolzien said. "It's a great coaching staff here and Aaron is the best in the game, and Matt has so many years in this offseason. It's been invaluable learning from everybody."
It's up to general manager Ted Thompson to decide what happens next. The Packers haven't gone into a season with three quarterbacks on the active roster since Flynn's rookie season in 2008.
Neither Flynn nor Tolzien cared to forecast what their boss is thinking. With access to the game film on their iPads, both said they plan to report to the stadium Friday afternoon, though many others prefer to stay away with cuts looming.
The cut to the final 53 is due to the NFL office by 3 p.m. (CDT) on Saturday. Both hope their cell phone will be silent.
"I think it is a difficult decision," Flynn said. "That's not our decision. I wish it was, but I think me and Scott have played well. I think we've both made an argument to be on this team."
The NFL confirmed Wednesday Tolzien still has a year of practice-squad eligibility because he's never dressed for nine or more games in his career. However, it's not a given he'd pass through waivers.
Those aren't the thoughts flooding his mind, though. Tolzien has been cut twice during the preseason – first by San Diego as a rookie in 2011 and again last year by San Francisco.
Tolzien wants to call Green Bay home and wouldn't mind if Flynn is along for the ride.
"Absolutely. No question," Tolzien said. "It's been an awesome experience with all three of us. I'd love that. I think that would be awesome."
--firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.