Sailing the Seas of Cheese: The Heir and a Spare
in-sur-ance : [in-shoo r-uh ns, -shur-] –noun
6. Any means of guaranteeing against loss or harm.
Example: a quality back-up quarterback.
For the past decade, the Green Bay Packers have had few needs for a quality back-up quarterback. He Who Should Not Be Named set quite the precedence for the iron-clad starting quarterback. After all he took the helm way back in the middle of the 1993 season and didn’t release it for over a decade. Back-up quarterbacks came and went. I can name a handful. Some like Burnell and Hasselbeck went on to become starters in their own right (though, no, you can’t have the ball. And forget it, you’re not going to win) while others remained in the shadows and attained mediocrity at best. And then there’s the back up from the 1996 that shall not be named at all. Sure he had a big time name, but did he even play a down? By that point in his career he was nothing more than a sidekick. The Robin to What’s His Face’s Caped Crusader.
It wasn’t until 2005 when Ted Thompson and his band of Merry Men decided that the backup wasn’t just the understudy that would never shine.
Enough about the past. To paraphrase Obi-wan Kenobi, the Learner is now the Master. But there is still a need for a go-to guy. Yes, we got very spoiled during the What’s His Face’s era. He rarely got hurt, and when he did he either
was an idiot and put ego before team played hurt or was out only a fraction of the game. How many centuries did he go with consecutive starts? Love him or Loathe him, What’s His Face was a total machine. The Packers never had to scramble to find a back-up to start a game because he wasn’t going to play.
But things hare different now. We have a new Heir to the Packer Dynasty. He’s already proven to be just as successful as the QB before him. Hell, he’s got one up on the previous guy and has hoisted the Super Bowl MVP trophy over his head. And they differ in one other way: he’s already missed an entire game because of injury. Don’t even start the wanking about how that makes him a lesser or weaker quarterback. I may not own a backhoe, but I think I can hide your body somewhere on my back forty if you are itching for a fight about this. I’ve gone on the record and apologized for calling Rodgers an injury magnet. Me, reactionary? Yeah, it’s shocking to believe.
Needless to say I was shocked as hell at how well Matt Flynn led the team in that game against New England this past December. Didn’t we all think the Pack was going to be shellacked? Hell, Jimmy Jones infamously declared Stick a Fork in ‘Em. But weren’t you beside yourself with giddiness with almost not losing?
Because we really haven’t needed a solid back-up quarterback in nearly 20 years, I forgot a lot of Flynn’s back story. It’s not like he’s a football schlub by any stretch of the imagination. How quickly people forget that the lowly seventh round draft pick that was expected to be nothing more than a glorified benchwarmer out-performed second round draft pick Brian Brohm who was supposed to be crowned the Spare Apparent . People also forget Flynn led LSU to the NCAA National Championship in 2008. Just like Rodgers coming out of college, Matt was very talented and incredibly underrated quarterback (though if you google his image as I did for this post, three of the first eight or so pictures of him are courtesy of drunkathlete.com) in his own right. I’m sure there are teams that would KILL for a solid QB like him to take the helm. (No, Minnesota, you may not have him. Go away!)
So suddenly we have this back-up that becomes a media darling in December. He’s got, what, a game and a half in the pros under his belt, a past NCAA championship and suddenly people want to trade him away?
What crack are all y’all smoking?
We aren’t playing 2001 football where your starting quarterback WILL NOT come out even if it is detrimental to the team. No more playing with a broken thumb bullcrap. And the rules have changed and will continue to change to prevent injured players–not just quarterbacks–from playing with head injuries. The era of the six thousand game starting streak is just not going to happen any more. Doesn’t matter who the bullet-proof starter appears to be.
So stop pretending that it’s a possibility.
Sure, we could trade Flynn to a team that desperately needs some talent. Places like Tennessee and Washington quickly come to mind. I’d throw in Minnesota, but see above offers to get lost. I don’t doubt Ted would wheel and deal for a fairly descent draft choice. But at what cost? Suppose the Packers decide to trade him for a pick. Wouldn’t the Packers have to expend another draft choice on someone like a Scott Tolzien for a back-up quarterback, because let’s face it, the only thing Flynn and Justin Harrell have in common is a college career in the SEC. They are leagues apart when it comes to poise and experience.
I don’t understand the troll logic that they would trade a QB to get another back up QB. Sounds like a senseless, lateral move to me if not a completely risky gamble. And there would be no guarantee the new guy would be any better than Flynn. And how many years would it take to bring a new guy up to speed with the current system where he would be on par with some one like a Matt Flynn? It’s easy to find another Harrell or Tony Dilweg. It doesn’t take much to find a guy who is okay and can hold a clipboard. You might find a diamond in the rough, or you might get stuck with a complete turd sandwich. But as a rule, there are a hell of a lot more steaming piles out there than true gems.
There’s definitely some comfort knowing that if Rodgers goes down for whatever reason that Matt Flynn is fully assembled and ready for action. He knows the system. He is familiar with the playbook. The team trusts him and had full faith in him in December. And unlike Aaron Rodgers, he has benefited from a starting quarterback that actually gave a rip who took him under his wing and has helped develop him as a QB. That sounds like a recipe for success if you ask me.
Now I’m not saying that Rodgers is accident or concussion prone. Seriously, what does it mean to be concussion prone? Quite frankly, it’s a media contrived load of crap. (Case in point: the last time I saw CNN run something about the NFL and head injuries, Rodgers was shown in three of the five images. Thank you, large cable outlet for perpetuating the stereotype.) Yet the two injuries that sent Rodgers to neurologist’s office this past season had nothing to do with each other. One was a dubious (read: dirty) hit at best and the other was the result of really bad judgment trying to dive head-first for a handful of extra yards. And then there was the Peppers’ hit that was just plain rude. That’s on par with saying you have in inherently bad set of tires because you got a flat from hitting a pothole and other one from someone slashing it with a knife.
I don’t think anyone is truly concussion prone. but I am convinced that other players may perceive one as such. That said, I am absolutely certain that the more the media gives Rodgers that asinine label, the bigger the bull’s eye gets on the side of his helmet. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that some players will think the quickest way to beat the Packers is a knockout blow to the side of the QB’s head. After all, isn’t perception nine-tenths and all that rot?
The last thing I ever want to see is the Packers’ starting QB lying flat on the turf waiting for the industrial strength spatula to pry him off the ground. And isn’t it more than a little reassuring there is someone groomed to step in–not just some bozo that can toss the football in Greg Jenning or JMike’s general direction? Matt Flynn is the first QB2 in quite a while not groomed to appreciate the finer art of surfing the bench. (Not including Rodgers in this category, because the Powers That Be had always groomed him to be QB1 one day.)
How many years of investment would it take to have a back-up ready to play at the level and poise that Flynn already attained? Is it worth trading Flynn away AND the likely expense of a draft pick? Why take one step forward with a possible trade only to take two steps back in creating a quarterback insurance policy?
Repeat after me: There is no such thing as an injury-proof quarterback.
It’s not a matter of If but rather a matter of When a team will be asking the back-up to start warming up on the sidelines. How many quarterbacks dropped like flies this past season? There was Kolb that went down with a head injury never to return. Talk about having an ace-in-the hole QB2 ready on a moment’s notice! Cutler dropped twice (once with a head injury, and we all know about the NFC Championship. Romo busted his clavicle. Even What’s His Face finally packed it in at the end of the season. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in other assorted QBs that did not play all 16 games such as Stafford, Delomme, Young and Gerrard. And then there are QBs that were injured before the season even ended like Tampa’s Freeman. Add them all up and I’ve already accounted for 25% of the starting QBs in the league that missed a game (or multiple games) for various injuries.
The NFL likes to follow the Olympic motto in always striving for the principles of Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger.) The wear and tear on the body is more profound than in any other era of the NFL. The talent is spectacular, but there are just as impressive injuries to match those new heights of aggressive play.
And if the owners get what they want and the season goes to 18 regular season games? That risk of injury will, no doubt, escalate. The league wants it. (Who doesn’t want to make a bamillion dollars?) But don’t fool yourself and think that the Players Association isn’t going to negotiate a clause that players don’t have to play all 18 games. I for one would not be surprised if the players would then have it their contracts to only play 16 to come to a happy little compromise.
Either way, the player gets socked with the increased risk of being injured in an 18 game season or he gets a two-week bye/vacation to be parsed out during the cake games of the season when it would be safe to sit a starter. Either way, teams would be looking more and more to reliable back-ups to fill those potential gaps created by injury or leave. And in that world, the low six-figure athlete with low reps that has mastered clipboard holding isn’t exactly a comforting consolation to the A Team.
Isn’t it reassuring that we don’t have a bench warmer but rather back up already ready to take the helm if the proverbial shit hits the fan?
Yeah, I like the Packer’s insurance policy. Matt Flynn will never be the Heir to the Packer dynasty. But isn’t comforting we have a spare that can come in with a moment’s notice and have the experience and talent to seamlessly take the next snap? Besides, he’s also mastered the bonus skill that Rodgers has added to the quarterback repetoire: photobombing the team captains. Sure, Flynn has proven himself a worthy sidekick in this endeavor standing side-by-side with the Bomber in Chief . But like calling the plays on the field, Matt has also shown that he is more than ready to fly on his own when Rodgers isn’t able to bomb the team.
(This one I like to call Revenge of the Photobombed. Kudos to Charles Woodson for conveniently adding to the photobomb payback. And style points to Tramon Williams for standing on his tippy toes to be the third photobomber
on the grassy knoll in the background. As you can see, James Jones was disgusted with said shenannigans.)
That said, what is there not to love about Matt Flynn?