Who will be the Washington Redskins starting Quarterback in 2012? It probably won't be just ONE guy, it is never that easy for a franchise that has been on an access road with no paved entry to the highway for the better part of 20 years.
Will it be Rex Grossman (50/50)? How about John Beck?? (I still think he has a chance, I am the only one besides Beck and his family, and maybe if things go haywire - Mike & Kyle Shanahan might take one last shot). What about the popular choice, Heisman winner Robert Griffin III (RG III)? Or the top free agent QB on the market, Matt Flynn of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers? Just for good measure, why don't we throw in Jolly Ol' St. Nick just to give us one for the thumb.
If I was ranking the possibilities based on the fans choice awards. RG III, would be choice 1-10, and on a different planet than everybody else. Santa Claus would be the 2nd choice. Flynn would be a distant 3rd to Santa and his reindeer. Rex would be in the clean-up spot (not where you want to be in this kind of ranking) and Beck would be swimming with the fishes.
After all, fans are always qualified to have a definitive opinion based on three games played while missing 5 starters for almost the entire time. I joke, because otherwise I get angry.
Hell, I don't know for sure if John Beck can play at this level. I believe he can. I think Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers think he can (they work out in San Diego together). I know he still believes he can. I believe Mike and Kyle Shanahan still hold out hope (he is the only QB under contract currently). I know this for sure -- Beck is not a dummy, and he was caught between being tentative (not wanting turnovers) and trying to stretch defenses. The only way you determine if he can overcome that is by giving him a legitimate chance, something I still do not feel he had.
Sorry guys, anybody that thinks three games is a fair chance, has no earthly clue what the meaning of fair is.
That being said - professional football is not a fair world. So -- I have to assume something different. How different, is the ultimate question. I strongly believe the Redskins will make a good attempt at Flynn. However, at this time of the year - you get a lot of smoke. Positive, negative. It is hard to know EXACTLY what the truth is. For what it is worth, I believe the people I have spoken too.
I want you to make up your own mind -- but please keep reading and you will see some reasons why you and the Redskins might want to get "In with Flynn."
Why do I believe it? Where do I begin?
For one, free agency is well ahead of the draft this year, unlike last year -- because of the lockout. If you bypass Flynn, you basically have to hope that you can land the Quarterback du jour in the entry draft. Will RG III even be around at # 6? Do you have to trade the future, for what you HOPE will be the NOW? I know there are other options, such as Texas A & M's Ryan Tannehill (broken foot, out of Senior Bowl), and Arizona's Nick Foles or a highly unlikely trade up to # 1 and Andrew Luck - but all of those scenarios are subject to a major roll of the dice. If you sign Flynn - you could still draft RG III if he is available at # 6 and have 2 really strong potential options or you could be patient, draft another need at 6, and draft an arm to develop in the 2nd to 4th round area.
That's what I would do if I was Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. You try and get two for the price of 1 - while keeping Beck and letting Rex Grossman find another team that he can contend for the starting job with. Maybe Rex goes Miami or Jacksonville, so he can at least have a chance to be a starter.
Here's the bottom line. I don't think it is fair for anybody's mental sanity - to think that Rex Grossman should be the starter here in Washington. He is not going to suddenly correct his turnover problem. He has never been a consistent Quarterback in terms of accuracy (interceptions are not the only problem) and as my friend Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network said to me on Monday night "If they can't keep anyone healthy, it won't matter who the Quarterback is."
Assuming it matters who the 'guy' is, and I'm kind of guessing that it does -- I don't think any Redskins fan or observer could have a problem with a potential rake of Flynn, Tannehill and bringing back Beck. Especially if you couple that with a wide receiver like Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or if the Redskins drop back from # 6 overall, pick up an extra pick - take South Carolina's outstanding WR Alshon Jefferey and then use that extra pick or other extra picks that they have acquired to get the guy they feel will develop into the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
We still have two months until free-agency begins, and about 3-and-a-half months until the entry draft - so a lot will happen and speculation will be rampant. The only thing I have control over - is trying to provide as accurate of an assessment of each guy as I see it.
I have not carefully studied RG III, or Tannehill yet -- or for that matter any other college signal caller. The Redskins are just in the beginning phase of that project as well, and will get a birds-eye, hands-on view at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama at the end of the month. Oh by the way, Mike and Kyle Shanahan will get to work directly with some of the top QB's (Foles, Weeden, Lindley) for the South squad.
I highly suggest the NFL Network's coverage of the practices and the game, as you will begin to see why the Redskins took half of their draft class from last years Senior Bowl and why I was so high on Leonard Hankerson and Ryan Kerrigan that week, and leading the way through the draft.
The one guy I have taken as good of a look as you are going to get at -- (without flying a helicopter over the Packers practice facility) is Flynn -- who only has two career NFL starts but lit up the Detroit Lions defense to the tune of six touchdowns in the regular season's last week.
Flynn set Packer records for single game performance, for a franchise that has had three of the best ever in Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Yes, Detroit's secondary stinks - but their pass rush and defensive line is outstanding. The Lions, as you may recall -- were a playoff team with a great defensive mind (Jim Schwartz) as their head coach along with their defensive coordinator, Gunther Cunningham.
As I went back and watched the television tape, several things jumped out at me. Flynn, by my count (I might have missed one) did NOT run any bootlegs or for that matter, a lot of sprint rolls - which is something the Redskins ideally would like to do. Not a big deal, but notable.
The negatives from the tv tape -- were easy to see.
Flynn struggled a bit with pressure recognition. On the first Green Bay series of the game, Flynn came out flinging the football on the first four plays from scrimmage. He had a nice completion on first down, then followed that up with two straight incompletions, but both were understandable based on coverages, routes and pressure.
The problem came on third down -- as Flynn was sacked and coughed the football up via fumble (sound familiar?) by the Lions on an inside twist/stunt rush. Flynn by my count had the ball from a shotgun snap for about 3 seconds. The Lions only rushed four, because it was 3rd/10 and the Packers showed a 3 receiver look.
Early game jitters against a talented front? Perhaps, but certainly something you don't want to see. Can it be corrected in a variety of ways? Of course. The one thing you always have to wonder is how much of that is rust versus recognition. Nobody knows.
The Lions all-world defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had a monster sack of Flynn, just beating his man in protection, and lighting up Flynn, who held on to the ball. That's going to happen of course, against premier talent. Flynn did not do anything wrong to the semi-trained eye.
I will get to some excellent blitz/pressure recognition items that I picked up in just a bit, but lost in the record setting performance that Flynn had, was a terrible interception he threw to Lions defensive back, Alphonso Smith. Flynn was in his customary shotgun drop, locked in on Jordy Nelson -- his 'X' receiver on the play -- never took his eyes off of his target and Smith jumped the inside slant from his off-coverage position. The Packers had run this play a couple of times, and had picked on Smith -- so maybe they just ran out of good fortune.
Either way, it was a bad read and choice by Flynn. The thing I liked is he kept his composure, and came out throwing the ball on the next series and led the Packers on a big scoring drive.
Those were the observations I made, that I didn't like - but of course in a six-touchdown performance -- there was a lot of good things to enjoy if you like offense, and good play out of your most important guy on the field.
I loved that the Packers came out throwing the football, four straight times until the turnover on the first series. That shows me -- Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin (who is going through an awful personal tragedy with the loss of his 21-year old son) are and were not afraid to trust Flynn with the offense. That's what they do for Rodgers, and that is how they were going to call it for Flynn.
On the Packers 2nd series, Flynn faced a 3rd/8+ and fired a strike to Jermichael Finley -- after Finley had dropped the previous pass. Flynn shows trust in his target (as he should), and got a huge first down to move the chains.
On the same series, on a 3rd/6 - Flynn had perhaps my favorite non touchdown throw of the game -- as he lined up in shotgun (a very frequent occurrence). As the pocket broke down, Flynn was flushed to his left and as every good QB does, kept his eyes up and scanned the field. He shuffled, and slid again even more after his initial movement, and fired a first down completion to the same left side. a back shoulder spot completion to Jordy Nelson. Flynn didn't have his feet set, he was still shuffling to the left and had a hand in his face, but made an accurate throw. I LOVED THIS PLAY - because it showed EVERYTHING that I look for in a professional, potentially very good to elite quarterback.
On his next drive, Flynn saved a field goal attempt after a drive bogged down inside the red zone -- after connecting on another big third down. Flynn mixed in James Jones and Ryan Grant to the Nelson/ Finley mix, leading to a touchdown to Nelson as Flynn went under center (rare), took one step back and fired a smoke pass to Nelson for a 7-yard TD breaking the tackle of the aforementioned Alphonso Smith.
Flynn was starting to find his stride after the touchdown to Nelson - and on the next drive he showed a touch of not-so good, but a huge statement to answer that. On a first down, Flynn missed a wide open Donald Driver on play action, from under center - one of the rare times that he had his hands under a butt. This is a little concerning (not being under center for all but 3 plays by my count).
The very next play - Flynn wiped out a bad throw with a great play, along with a LOT of help from Ryan Grant. Flynn read a free blitzer coming right at him, threw to his "hot" receiver, in this case - Grant - and one simple, good decision along with accurate ball placement later - turned a potential broken play or disaster into an 80-yard touchdown. It is the basic things that matter, not who can throw it down the field 50 yards at a time.
Booming arm strength is completely over rated. Did nothing for Jeff George, Akili Smith, JaMarcus Russell and others. You have to have accuracy and intelligence, combined with work ethic to make your arm strength worth anything.
Flynn was clearly settling into a flow as the first half went along, and started to really show what he can do. Flynn hit Jermichael Finley on a crossing route from his left to right, realizing that Finley had inside leverage on his route and was perfectly led in stride. The next play, Flynn threw a corner route to Donald Driver who draw a defensive pass interference call.
Flynn or the Packers were not done, stretching the Lions defense. The very next play after the penalty - Flynn hooked up with Jordy Nelson who ran a go-route for a 36-yard TD. The ball was under thrown slightly (by design?) to the back shoulder of Nelson, so that only he could make a play on the ball. The corner was in pursuit, and never turned his head around. Oh yeah, one other thing -- Flynn drew the Lions off-sides for the free play -- by using a hard count.
In the fourth quarter, the Packers were down 41-38 with about 2:40 left, when Flynn went to work from the shotgun, hurry-up formation. He threw a 15-yard dart to begin the drive, on a dig route. Flynn took a short dump down to Brandon Saine at the two-minute warning. On a 3rd/3 - Flynn drew the Lions off-sides again (Ndamukong Suh) for a critical first down. After Flynn's receiver fell down, leading to a near interception and a short completion to Jordy Nelson, Flynn and the Packers faced a defining 3rd/4 situation.
Flynn got the snap, had plenty of time to scan the field - and dialed up James Jones over Chris Houston for a 40-yard gain. The ball was perfectly placed, and in stride, over Jones' shoulder -- leading Super Bowl winning coach and FOX Analyst, Brian Billick to say the pass was as "perfectly thrown a football as you've seen all year"
Flynn finished off the drive and the win with a quick slant touchdown to TE Jermichael Finley. This time, Flynn took the snap from under center, and fired it to Finley's waist level and in a location where either the ball would be caught or incomplete. That's what good quarterbacks have to do.
Flynn is nowhere close to that designation, based on playing time -- but he certainly has the ability to get to that point. Flynn has only one other NFL start.
In the 2010 season, Flynn started a Sunday Night Football game against the New England Patriots in Foxboro. I remember watching some of the game on the Redskins team bus back from a road trip and everybody was 'ooohing and ahhhing' over some of the plays Flynn was making.
One of the plays, (after double checking NFL.com's game highlights) was a 66-yard TD pass to James Jones perfectly in stride, on a go route, up the right sideline. The Patriots appeared to be playing a Cover-2 look with the safety late getting over the top. Flynn was in shotgun.
Another play that I liked, was a 3rd/10 -- on a long Packers scoring drive of 14 plays. This was play number 13 and the difference between a field goal, or a chance at a touchdown. Flynn scanned the field, made his third read and found stud FB John Kuhn underneath for a screen to bring the Packers inside the New England-5 while picking up the first down.
The very next play, Flynn capped off the drive with a tight slant throw for a touchdown to Greg Jennings who worked from Flynn's left on a pick with the slot receiver, who ran a corner route. Kyle Arrington had tight coverage on Jennings who caught a frozen rope for the score.
Later in the game, Flynn also led another 13-play drive, that culminated in a swing pass touchdown to Kuhn. Again, a long drive that finished with 7 points and not three (sound familiar?).
As with every game, Flynn made a few mistakes, throwing a interception to Arrington on a route that Donald Driver either broke off or just was not on the same page. Flynn threw it - expecting a slant. Driver looked like he was thinking a back shoulder throw or a comeback concept. For what it is worth, both Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin on the NFL Network, said of the throw that the "receiver stopped the route."
Another mistake that Flynn made was a bad read of coverage by safety Brandon Meriweather. The Packers were down 31-27 with 3:35 left, and a 2nd/5 when the interception occurred. The route and concept were similar to the Jones touchdown earlier in the game. The execution wasn't the same.
However, thanks to a hands-to-the-face penalty on Tully Banta-Cain -- the Packers and Flynn got a second chance. Flynn followed that penalty and the new life, with a 3rd/4 conversion on a drag route to Donald Driver to extend the drive for 6 yards.
The Packers faced a 3rd/11 for the 11th play of drive with only :25 left, again down 31-27, when Flynn hit Driver on a slant to get the Pack to the Patriots-16. The problem was the Packers had no time outs, and wasted about 15 seconds getting up to the line for what would turn out to be the final play.
Flynn got sacked after taking a deep 7 step shotgun snap, and flushing to his right side -- looking for an open target in the end zone that would have won the game.
Who sacked him, and forced a fumble for the icing on the Patriots cake? That man again, Tully Banta-Cain.
Two starts is all we have of Matt Flynn to go on. The week before the New England start -- Flynn took over for a concussed Rodgers against the same Detroit defense that he shredded at Lambeau, but did not fair as well. Flynn was (15-26) 57.7%, 177 yards, with and interception.
I am not going to break down preseason contests, but clearly the Redskins hiearchy can review that tape, to study mechanics, arm slot and detailed footwork.
Who knows what they will see and what they have already seen for sure. I can tell you this, in the 2010 preseason -- Flynn was a combined (50-85) 58.8% for 583 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, while running 7 times for nearly 5 yards a clip. He fumbled twice, losing one.
In the 2011 preseason -- Flynn was (22-40) 55% for 311 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, while running 3 times for 13 yards.
I know this for sure -- on the night home from Philadelphia a little over two weeks ago - Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike, had a detailed conversation over Flynn's performance against the Lions.
They were very impressed and pleased to see the results, despite not being able to witness the work. I am told that they have had other conversations about Flynn, and it would appear based on a few sources inside the organization that the Redskins are 'very interested' as one source described to me.
Of course, we shall see when 'rubber meets the road' and it comes down to contract time. I think the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and a few other teams could be in the mix.
Our ESPN 980 Front Office NFL Insider, J.I. Halsell expects a very modest contract for a potential NFL starter, because simply -- teams do not know how good Flynn will be as a starter, with limited experience.
Halsell, who has had first hand experiences with contracts from both a management perspective (Redskins) and now a player agency perspective (Priority Sports) -- suggests that the price for Flynn, a former 7th round pick, will be around a 2 or 3 year deal, roughly at 3 million dollars in value per year. Halsell says Flynn's guaranteed money would be in the range of 3-4 million overall.
Halsell says his draft round status has no factor or hindrance in Flynn getting a bigger contract, it is simply about a lack of playing experience - but Flynn would get paid as a "top-tier # 2 QB type deal."
Why wouldn't Flynn cost as must as a Quarterback like Matt Schaub did when Houston acquired him from Atlanta?
Simple. As Halsell points out - Schaub had more of a "body of work," with six games in three seasons of 10 + attempts. Perhaps the most notable thing to keep in mind, is that the Texans TRADED for Schaub after his 3rd season in the NFL - clearly valuing him more than a guy like Flynn - who any team could sign with no compensation return.
The only possible exception to that would be if the Packers were to slap the franchise tag on Flynn, and retain his leverage. That tag however, would be extremely costly and the Packers would have to carry that number on their salary cap until Flynn was traded. Highly, extremely unlikely.
Schaub, in case you were wondering, only had two starts as well - BUT - in 2004, his rookie season, Schaub was (33-70) for 330 yards, with a touchdown and four picks. In 2005, Schaub was (33-64) for 495 yards, with four touchdowns and no picks. In 2006, his final year in Atlanta - Schaub was (18-27) for 208 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
This showed the Texans that Schaub had a bigger body of work, as Halsell pointed out (three years, six games of 10 + attempts). Schaub had a combined 161 passing attempts during that three year span, and 24 rushing attempts. Schaub had 6 touchdowns to 6 picks. Schaub was 26 years old entering his first season with the Texans, who just happened to have Kyle Shanahan on the staff. Shanahan was about to begin his first year as Quarterbacks coach.
Needless to point out - Kyle still has not found what he had in Houston with Schaub (listed at 6-5, 235).
In four years with the Packers, including the two starts -- Flynn (27 on June 20th) has 132 passing attempts and 31 rush attempts. He has a 62.1% completion rate, 1,015 yards along with 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He's lost two fumbles, and has 31 rushing attempts.
An NFL evaluator said this to ESPN 980, when I asked if Flynn has the ability to be the next Matt Schaub or if he is a fringe starter? The evaluator didn't exactly answer it directly, saying via text -- "Why not? He plays exactly like (Aaron) Rodgers, he just doesn't have [the] same arm." When I asked if his arm strength was good or adequate, the evaluator said "It's good enough."
Per John, in speaking to a scout who attended a Green Bay two-a-day session each of the past two years -- the scout walked away with this thought on Flynn. “I was blown away by the guy because I had such low expectations. I was amazed at how good he looked, how in command [Flynn was] and he’s a mobile guy. He has a good arm, not a great arm. Arm strength is one of the most overrated aspects of a quarterback."
John also spoke with Russ Lande, a former NFL scout who heads the draft coverage for the Sporting News (www.sportingnews.com) and runs GM Jr., who told Keim about the Redskins -- “I would go get Flynn,” Lande said. “I thought he was a better player than Kevin Kolb. He has an average NFL arm, which is more than enough to win with. But Mike [Shanahan] is a smart guy. He can win this this guy and win real well. To me it’s a slam dunk so you don’t have to use your first-round pick."
Flynn is far from a finished product, but how many "finished products" are there - that are available and affordable? Peyton Manning might be 'finished and available' but no-thanks for me, no matter what other reports and rumblings have indicated.
I also look back at a players college career for an indication of certain qualities, but again realize everything in the NFL is different. I remember Flynn laying an absolute whipping on the University of Miami in the 2005 Chick Fil-A Bowl. Flynn finally got his chance to start full time in his senior season, and only won a National Championship over Ohio State. Flynn was and seems to still be a winner, with determination. He is not a standout statistically by any means as you can see here.
Per NFL.com - Flynn has appeared in a total of 50 games at Louisiana State, including 33 as a quarterback, starting 12 games at that position. He completed 245-of-437 passes (56.1%) for 3,096 yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He carried 128 times for 340 yards (2.7-yard average) and five scores. On 565 plays, he amassed 3,436 yards in total offense. He fumbled three times and was sacked 35 times for losses totaling 258 yards.
Flynn, was downgraded accordingly in the NFL Draft, and was a 7th round pick. The scouting report via NFL.com on Flynn was in part this -- Good decision-maker who is a valid threat to gain yardage with his feet...Cool under pressure and has the mobility and vision to tuck the ball and locate the cutback lanes on the draw...More of a straight-line runner (stiff hips make it tough for him to fluidly redirect), but he can throw on the move...Knows when he needs to pull the ball down and run with it, but is not the type that will get "happy feet," as he goes through his progressions to locate a secondary target before bolting.
As with every prospect - they are far from perfect and Flynn was in that camp. Here are the negatives that were compiled by NFL.com: Has good accuracy in the short area, but does not have the arm strength to consistently air the ball out...Sometimes telegraphs throws, as he tends to pat it before throwing...Shows good mobility on the move, but is more of a straight-line runner who does not have the change-of-direction agility to quickly hit the cutback lane...Can make some of his deep throws, but those attempts lack velocity and zip to keep it away from the defenders...
Two things also factor into the possible Redskins-Flynn equation. Unlike last year, the Redskins will have to make their decisions first on free agency and then the draft. I can't stress how uncomfortable it makes me to bank on the draft to find "THE GUY," and I am NOT a trade up kind of guy. There is no guarantee that RG III is around with the sixth pick, as a matter of fact it is highly unlikely. You may have to move all the way up to the 2nd pick -- which is an extremely high cost.
The last, and this might be most important -- the Green Bay Packers run a very similar style of the West Coast offense, in the passing game, as the Redskins do. Every scheme has variances, but these two teams, according to one high end Redskins source - are "almost the same." Flynn would not face a huge scheme transition like Kevin Kolb did. The source was quick to point this out, saying that Kolb going from Andy Reid and the Eagles to Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals (essentially the Steelers offense) was like learning Chinese fluently in a month, when your base language is English.
I can't say it enough, it doesn't cost the Redskins enormous money to roll the dice on Flynn - while it reduces the pressure on a quarterback that they can draft and develop.
You can not go in to this season with John Beck or Rex Grossman as your top and best option. It's simple, sign Flynn draft a future guy in the 2nd or 3rd round area and keep Beck and Jonathan Crompton to have 4 slingers to battle for 2-3 spots.
Remember what Mike Shanahan feels about depth and competition. Mark my words. The Redskins will be making a huge mistake if they bypass Flynn and roll the dice solely on the NFL Draft. Why not have the best of both worlds?