INDIANAPOLIS – In the morning, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson said next to nothing about free agent-to-be quarterback Matt Flynn, other than noting both men are from East Texas.
By stark contrast, Packers coach Mike McCarthy sounded like Flynn’s agent in the afternoon. McCarthy spoke in the most glowing of terms about a quarterback who he believes is “definitely” ready to become a starter.
“Aaron (Rodgers) had played in a couple ballgames, he played the Dallas game (in 2007), the New England game (in 2006). Matt’s had a chance to play versus New England, versus Detroit,” McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine on Friday. “But based on what I see in the everyday classroom, practice field, he’s ready. It’s his time to play. And you don’t ever know. You don’t ever know if a backup quarterback can take that next step and go out and play 16 games. I know mentally he’s ready, emotionally he’s definitely ready, but until you play the position and go play those 1,100, 1,200 snaps, that’s when you really find out. And I think Matt’s ready for that.”
McCarthy said Flynn would “like to come back” to play for the Packers, but with Rodgers entrenched as the starter, Flynn has no avenue for playing time and the Packers couldn’t afford to pay top salaries to two quarterbacks, anyway.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s very consistent, the same guy every day,” McCarthy said. “I’m talking about emotionally, mentally and physically. He can make all the throws, does a very good job of running the system. The same game plan that we had in for Aaron Rodgers, we went with the same one with his opportunities. He has the ability to play the moving phase and the action phase and also drop back and throw the ball on some deep, out-breaking balls. I think he’s very savvy in the pocket and people underestimate his athletic ability. He’s a very good football player when he leaves the pocket.”
Flynn was a seventh-round pick in 2008. Since then, by getting stronger physically and sharpening his fundamentals, Flynn has improved his arm strength and accuracy. And with four years in the system – including his record-setting performance against Detroit in Week 17 – he’s as prepared as possible to be a starter, even with just two starts under his belt.
“You’ve got to factor in the preseason games,” McCarthy said. “There’s information out there. If you watch Matt play from Day 1 to the last time he played against Detroit, you’re definitely going to see the rise in his performance level and really what he’s able to do physically. He handles the football better today than he did a couple years ago. But, yeah, that’s a challenge.”
Coaches doing their homework on Flynn have a challenge, and McCarthy has a challenge on his hands in grooming a new No. 2 quarterback. At this point, it’s Graham Harrell, the record-setting former Texas Tech quarterback who spent most of the last two seasons on Green Bay’s practice squad until earning active-roster promotions. Flynn made some of his biggest strides in the team’s quarterbacks school, but the new collective bargaining agreement has limited the time coaches and players can work together in the offseason.
“I like everything I’ve seen from Graham to date,” McCarthy said. “I like the way he fits in the classroom. I think mentally he’s finally getting to the point to where he understands the offense inside and out. But he needs quarterback school more than anybody I’ve ever coached because there’s things you can really find out about the quarterback. I think he’s definitely got room for development in front of him, and he’s got a great opportunity ahead of him if Matt Flynn does move on. I’m excited about him.”
If Harrell is the No. 2, he’d have big shoes to fill. Flynn almost beat New England in 2010 and led the Packers from behind six times to beat the Lions in 2011.
“I don’t know what other opportunities he’ll have, but if I was at a club and was looking for a good young quarterback, he’s definitely someone I would talk to,” McCarthy said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.