Perhaps everyone should have seen this coming. After all Matt Flynn already went through the same scenario less than one year ago when he was acquired by the Oakland Raiders for two draft picks and was once again signed to a starter’s salary as he was in Seattle where he already lost a job he was groomed for to a hotshot (but unproven) mobile quarterback named Russell Wilson.
In Oakland throughout training camp and the preseason things weren’t much different than they were in Seattle. The warning signs started all the way back in minicamp when the media blasted the performance of all of Oakland’s quarterbacks and continued throughout the preseason, the loss of left tackle Jared Veldheer exposing what maybe should have been known from the beginning. Matt Flynn needs time in the pocket to be an effective NFL quarterback.
It is now 99% clear that Matt Flynn is never going to work out in Oakland as their starting quarterback, the Raiders poor offensive line and less talented wide receivers than in Green Bay largely attributing to Flynn failing to recapture his breakout success he found in replacing Aaron Rodgers. With Vic Tafur revealing late Monday night that it was leaked that Terrelle Pryor will be the Raiders Week One starter now the dialogue of the Matt Flynn story shifts to “What’s Next?”
The future of the Oakland Raiders at quarterback is very unclear still, but it isn’t going to be going through the arm of Matt Flynn. Terrelle Pryor might not be the guy and Matt McGloin/Tyler Wilson may never pan out as rookies either, but the fact of the matter is that all three have way more upside at this point in their careers and cost significantly less to the cap than Flynn. The latter being the most important part of Flynn’s future in Oakland.
Flynn is now once again a very expensive backup quarterback and will once again will be an albatross come the offseason when Oakland could very easily cut him and turn that money into a much more talented and useful player (think offensive or defensive line) or to resign up and coming free agents.
Seattle luckily found a willing trading partner in Reggie McKenzie who was still very high on Matt Flynn due to his Green Bay connections. It is very unlikely that Reggie is going to find a rube to trade Flynn for anywhere near the value he gave the Seahawks so either the Raiders are going to have to hold onto Flynn (and the potential for a reset of the quarterback controversy after one bad Pryor outing) or trade him at zero cents on the dollar and hope to get a late round draft pick or a useful rotation player.
McKenzie deserves some sort of blame here for wasting valuable 2013 (and 2014) cap space on a guy who already lost his starting job to a player very similar to Pryor the year before, ignoring the fact that Pryor had been working hard all season to get better after his promising debut against the Chargers last season. Throw in the knowledge of how bad the Raiders offensive line was projected to be even with Veldheer in the lineup and the move makes little sense. Combined with the waiving of Tyler Wilson, Reggie has burned three draft picks on two quarterbacks who have yet to really impress anyone to this point. Throw in Flynn’s fairly large salary and it is a costly error that McKenzie deserves to be held accountable for.
With that being said the best option for Oakland might just be to take their lumps and swallow their pride and cut Matt Flynn after that 2013 season to free up even more space to the team’s salary cap for Reggie McKenzie to work with. The Raiders rebuild depends on how that large sum of cap space gets spent, and having even more millions tacked onto that number will only make things easier for that revamp set to take its course this spring.
Does that likely mean Matt Flynn’s time in the spotlight as a potential successful NFL starter is over? Probably. Still Flynn has won a National Championship at LSU and holds the Green Bay Packers single game passing yards and passing touchdowns records. That has to count for something and regardless of how things pan out over the course of the next few months he will have a job in the NFL. Oakland isn’t a good fit for Flynn and that is on the Raiders for not figuring that out before bringing him in and that is no fault to Flynn, but it is extremely hard to find a spot on a winning NFL team as a starting quarterback without paying your dues. That becomes more difficult when you are a 28 year old who is now coming off his second straight preseason where he has lost a starting role. Needing talent to make stuff happen, Flynn seems to be destined to be an NFL backup. A reliable “In case of emergency” guy that will always have a job in the NFL.
Whether that job is in Oakland remains to be seen. For now the upside of Pryor and Matt McGloin seem to be pointing towards Flynn getting cut loose or traded to free up cap space for next season. A lot can change over the course of an NFL season, but for now Flynn’s days as a player on the verge of becoming a starting quarterback, and as a Raider look numbered.