Who exactly is Matt Flynn?
After his performance for the Green Bay Packers on the final Sunday of the NFL's regular season, Flynn's name became a hot topic around the league, especially in cities where quarterback stability is desperately needed.
Flynn's rookie contract has expired. That means he can become a free agent. The Orange and Brown Report has learned from a source close to the situation that Flynn has been told by the Packers, although they want him to return, they will not slap him with the franchise tag. In other words, Flynn will not be playing for the Packers in 2012.
The question everyone in northeast Ohio is asking is should he sign with the Cleveland Browns? Is he worth the risk and high price tag.
The OBR has reached out to reporters who covered Flynn at LSU and at Green Bay to get their insight into just who this guy is and what he can do.
Flynn only has two-career NFL starts under his belt, but he is looked upon as the answer at the quarterback position for teams struggling in that area.
He has made the most of those two starts. The first was Dec. 19, 2010 at home against the New England Patriots. Starter Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion the previous week at Detroit and he was ruled out for the Sunday night game. Green Bay was in the thick of a playoff race and needed a win.
Although the Packers lost, it was not because of Flynn, who finished 24-for-37 passing for 251 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Entering that game, Flynn had gone two seasons watching on the sidelines as Rodgers guided the Packers offense.
Flynn was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft. The previous season, Flynn was the starting quarterback for LSU and led the Tigers to a win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship game 38-24. Flynn, who battled ankle injuries his senior season, was named the game's offensive MVP after finishing 19-for-27 passing for 174 yards and four touchdowns.
"He was a little overlooked on that team," said Randy Rosetta, who covers LSU for Scout.com's Tiger Sports Digest. "It was strange, that team was about its defense and they had some wide receivers who stole some of the spotlight and three big running backs. Matt's numbers weren't huge, but they don't get where they went without Matt."
Yet during the 2008 NFL Draft even the Packers drafted a quarterback before selecting Flynn with the 209th overall pick. The Packers drafted Brian Brohm in the second round after trading defensive tackle Corey Williams to the Browns for Cleveland's second-round selection.
That training camp, Flynn beat out Brohm for the backup quarterback job.
"He's not cocky, but confident," said Bill Huber, who covers the Packers for Scout.com's Packers Report. "I asked Matt about (being drafted in the seventh round). I wondered if any point did that make him think this isn't going to work? How many national championship quarterbacks from the SEC go in the seventh round? He said ‘no' and that he has the utmost confidence he could play at this level."
Flynn had one start under his belt entering this season. He proved, for one game, he could play at the level. But one start does not a career make.
On Jan. 1, Flynn got the nod in the season's final game at home against the Detroit Lions. The Packers had the top seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye. Still, the Lions were playing for a playoff berth. Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-41 victory. Flynn set franchise records for passing yards and touchdown passes in one game.
"Just think of all of the great quarterbacks that have come through here," said Flynn after the game, as quoted by The Associated Press. "It's very humbling. I just thank everybody around me and everything. I couldn't have done it, obviously, by myself. There are weapons all around me, and the line did a great job. It's one of those games where it got to a shootout, and we just kept having to match each other."
That game will no doubt give Flynn a big payday. But we've been down this road before. Backup quarterback comes in, has some success and then he enters free agency where a team pays handsomely. A few years later, that team and its fans feel regret. Will Flynn be a bust — think Scott Mitchell — or is he the next draft day sleeper turned top-tier NFL quarterback?
"That's the $1 million question," Huber said. "I'm not smart enough to give a definitive answer. Flynn needs a supporting cast. If you give him that, protect him and I think he'll be fine. You can win with him if you give him some talent."
Flynn's pro career has mirrored his college experience. Flynn was stuck behind former No. 1 overall NFL draft pick JaMarcus Russell in Baton Rouge.
Like he has done in Green Bay, Flynn bided his time and learned how to improve without actually playing in the games.
"College coaches talk about mental reps," Rosetta said. "Matt was very good about that. He's not a coach's kid, although his dad played quarterback at Baylor. It always surprised me the way Matt carried himself. Matt wasn't somebody who was sitting there worry about his playing time, but worrying about how to get better."
Flynn's chance in college came in the 2005 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. He finished 13-for-22 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers rolled Miami (Fla.) 40-3.
"You may not win a bunch of games because of him, but you won't lose them because of him," Rosetta said. "He's a Phil Simms type guy. The only time I remember seeing Flynn rattled was when they beat Alabama on the way to the National Championship. He threw three interceptions in the first half at Tuscaloosa. He came back in the second half, completely turned it around and they won 41-34."
Coming out of LSU, scouts saw Flynn as someone who must improve his mechanics and accuracy if he were to see significant playing time in the pros. For his career, including mop-up duty, Flynn has a completion percentage of 62.1 percent with nine touchdowns and five interceptions.
Huber said Flynn's teammates in Green Bay not only the utmost confidence in him, but respected him. Most importantly, Flynn possesses the confidence that he can be a successful NFL quarterback.
"Before that Detroit game, he knew he was going to start," Huber said. "Talking to him was like another other day of the week. He's an easy going guy." "He's ready to be a starter. There is nothing more he can do here in Green Bay."