The 30-year old Flynn is listed at 6'2" and 230 pounds and has spent most of his six-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, who drafted him in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He has started six games with the Packers, including four in his second stint with them in 2013 and one game with the Raiders, also in 2013. He has also played for the Seattle Seahawks and been on the roster of the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots.
After the jump, I'll be sharing my observations from viewing footage of Flynn in action over the last few seasons in order to assess some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Matt Flynn?
Flynn attended college at LSU where he mostly backed up JaMarcus Russell. However, when Russell departed for the NFL, Flynn became the starter in his senior year. Mostly in a game manager role as LSU rode an excellent running game and strong defense, Flynn missed just one game and ended the season with over 2,400 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
LSU would go on to win the BCS title with Flynn named the offensive MVP after he threw four touchdown passes in the 38-24 win over Ohio State. Other than that his best moments included the win over Auburn where he threw a last-second touchdown pass.
Flynn was drafted in the seventh round in 2008 and was a seldom-used back-up to Aaron Rodgers over his first two seasons. However, in his third season, a Rodgers injury thrust him into a starting role against New England and he played well, throwing three touchdown passes. However, he also threw a pick-six and the potential game-winning drive stalled in the red zone due to some confusion and clock management issues.
Flynn reverted to a back-up role in 2011, but turned heads when given the opportunity to start the meaningless final regular season game against the 10-5 Lions. Flynn led the Packers to a 45-41 win with a stunning 480-yard, six touchdown performance. That game earned him some serious money, as Seattle would sign him to a three-year, $20.5 million deal in free agency. However, although he began preseason as the starter, he lost the role to rookie Russell Wilson and barely played all year as Wilson started every game. Needing a starter, the Raiders traded for him, but he didn't win the role, although he did start one game due to injuries, throwing this pick-six in a 24-14 loss to Washington:
After the Raiders released him just one month into the season, he spent a few weeks on the Bills roster as an emergency injury cover but was not called into action. Flynn then returned to Green Bay after Rodgers and his back-up Seneca Wallace were both injured. After leading the Packers to a come-from-behind tie against the Vikings, he started the next four games, going 2-2 with two one-point wins. His best game saw him pass for 299 yards and four touchdowns in a come-from-behind win over Dallas.
2014 saw him backing up Rodgers again and he did not see any meaningful action, just playing mop-up duty in blow-outs. This year, Flynn was without a job until June, when he signed with New England. However, they released him after two months because he was not healthy.
Based on all the footage watched, here is what Flynn brings to the table, divided into categories:
Flynn lacks ideal size and isn't a particularly good athlete. His combine numbers were about average for his position. His rushing stats tell their own story as he has carried 65 times for just 69 yards at the NFL level, with just one run of over 10 yards in his entire career and this touchdown. He did display slightly more running ability at LSU with over 200 yards and four touchdowns in his senior year and was actually really productive in that area in high school.
Flynn's arm strength is best described as adequate. He can hit an intermediate throw in a tight window, but a downfield throw attacking the seams or a long out is more of a dicey proposition. He has had some success with the long ball but mainly threw short passes with the Packers. In the game where he passed for 480 yards, he only threw five times beyond 20 yards, but three of these were complete for a 40-yard gain and touchdowns of 36 and 58 yards.
Plenty of people were raving about Flynn's accuracy as he headed into free agency in 2012, but when he moved into a new system, that eluded him somewhat. As you'd expect, his accuracy is not as good on downfield throws as it is on short to intermediate routes, where he has the ability to put touch on the ball and hit people in stride. As you'd expect, his accuracy numbers drop when he is under pressure.
Flynn's release seems good and he usually throws a tight spiral. However, there are times when he fails to step into a throw which can compromise his accuracy or velocity. He will also fade backwards at times when faced with a rush, although he generally does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield to locate checkdown options when he does so.
Flynn doesn't have great mobility outside the pocket but can move within the pocket and duck under a potential sack to get rid of the ball. His awareness isn't always the best, though, as I've seen him blindsided by a few hits causing him to lose a few fumbles. He's actually lost nine fumbles in his career so far.
Of course, he has primarily played in west coast offenses where he's been able to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid the threat of pressure. However, when his primary look isn't there and he's not in rhythm, he does have a tendency to be hesitant and pat the ball a few times before getting rid of it and at times he will panic and force throws. He will often throw the ball away to avoid pressure when necessary though.
When under serious pressure, he can crumble. In the second preseason game with the Raiders in 2013, Flynn - still the starter at that time - was sacked five times in the first half, in just 22 dropbacks. Other than that he actually put up good numbers, but they were 23-0 down just before half time until he threw a last minute touchdown.
It's not just pressure from the pass rush that seems to affect him. He's played well in a few meaningless games, but when he was battling to keep his starting job in Seattle and Oakland, he played poorly.
Flynn's decision making was regarded as good after his early success in Green Bay, but obviously their offense was a well-oiled machine and he was able to plug in and perform well. In Seattle and Oakland that was not the case and he became more indecisive and had more of a tendency to force throws or miss open receivers. The Jets offense hasn't exactly been a well-oiled machine itself in recent times.
When he gets into a rhythm, Flynn looks decisive and makes better decisions. However, he's had some throws where he didn't see the safety coming across and ended up getting picked off.
As noted, Flynn hasn't scrambled much at the NFL level although he had shown the ability to do so effectively at times in the past. While his movement in the pocket is good, he has also proved that he can throw on the run even when rolling to the left.
While Flynn has played mostly in west coast offenses - and the Jets do not run one - the principles of a run-first offense where the quarterback throws plenty of safe, short passes is not likely to be too alien to Flynn, who also played in a run-first pro-style offense at LSU. The biggest adjustment for him will be in terms of the pre-snaps reads and also adjusting to the fact that his receiver's routes will be less precisely pre-determined.
Flynn has just spent two months with the Patriots, who run an Erhardt-Perkins scheme similar to those Chan Gailey has favored in the past and were likely looking at Flynn as a short term, stop-gap game manager, as the Jets presumably also are. This might enable him to hit the ground running, although he didn't actually get to practice with the team due to injury.
Flynn has been teammates with Breno Giacomini (twice) and Jamari Lattimore. In addition, his senior year at LSU was Steven Ridley's redshirt freshman year.
Flynn took a physical with the Jets a week or so ago, so presumably his hamstring injury that kept him on the non-football injury list with New England has healed. In the past, he had some foot and ankle injuries which some were concerned over during the draft process.
Flynn is certainly regarded as very smart and had one of the top Wonderlic scores at the scouting combine back in 2008. Scouts also speak highly of his temperament and leadership qualities.
In high school, he played the last four games with a broken foot, displaying impressive toughness and desire.
Setting aside any concerns over scheme fit, an optimistic view of Flynn would suggest that his most recent extended action at the NFL level was at the end of the 2013 season where he led the team to a 2-2-1 record and preserved their playoff hopes so that Aaron Rodgers could return in week 17 and beat the Bears to clinch the division title. Holding the fort in such a way is all you can really ask for from your back-up, especially when he wasn't your number two and had, in fact, been signed off the street to back-up the number three.
In 2014, he just sat behind Aaron Rodgers and didn't play any meaningful snaps, so it's hard to conclude he's regressed over that time and perhaps we should feel more optimistic about his chances of being a solid back-up?
One concern is that he's only seen success with the Packers and therefore is a product of their system. Judging by how poorly he played (and that can't be understated) in Seattle and Oakland - despite the fact they, too, ran a west coast offense - there could be some truth to that. The league seems to share these concerns, based on how long he sat on the shelf before New England finally gave him a contract. The one counter-argument you could present to allay those concerns would be that perhaps his good play in Green Bay had more to do with him finding a good rhythm than any system requirements, so maybe emulating that success elsewhere is not impossible.
I'd add to that concern the fact that Flynn didn't play very well in preseason last year, completing just 47% of his passes. Even so, if we're judging him as a potential starter and concluding that he's neither good nor consistent enough, that doesn't mean he won't be a good choice as a stop-gap or emergency quarterback.
While the scheme here isn't the same as the one in Green Bay, which doesn't bode well for his chances, if he was only filling in on a temporary basis, then it might be a more conservative offense that they opt to run and that would require lots of quick reads and short passes that might suit his skill-set well. One pre-draft scouting report said that his closest NFL comparison was Ryan Fitzpatrick, so perhaps if circumstances do dictate that he needs to go in for Fitzpatrick, he will be able to handle that. It will be up to Chan Gailey to see if he can get Flynn to over-achieve as he's done with a few other quarterbacks in the past, including Fitzpatrick himself.