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Matt Flynn like Derek Anderson? Come on, man!

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Listening to Green and Gold Today introduces one to a lot of insane comments. For example: the Favre cult that keeps calling in pretending to *not* be Favre culters, only to be outed by the Prime Minister for what they are. Or the James Starks Hall of Fame balloters. But perhaps the most inane thing I heard came from an emailer (or was it caller?) who said that Matt Flynn is basically Derek Anderson: a bad QB surrounded by tons of good wide of whom he is unable to take advantage.

Excuse me? What game were you watching?

Before I go on further, allow me to say that I don’t think Matt Flynn played an amazing game. I’m not going to confuse him with Aaron Rodgers any time soon. He doesn’t have as much zip on the ball as Aaron. He doesn’t move as well as Aaron. He isn’t as accurate at Aaron (especially on the deep ball). There’s a reason why he’s a backup. But I judge backups on the following criteria:

1: Can he implement a good game plan? (meaning not baby game plan but an actual NFL one)
2: Can he make the right reads at the line?
3: Can he keep from making egregious mistakes?
4: Can he make a play or two?

After watching his 5 series of the second half multiple times, I can give an unequivocal yes on 1 and 4, a qualified yes on 2, and an unfortunate no. Let’s take a look at each quality:

Can He Implement the Game Plan?

Well, for us to know that, we have to know what the gameplan was. To do that, let’s take a look at what formation McCarthy called in for both QBs:

Shotgun Rodgers: 13

Shotgun Flynn: 11 (not counting last two drives of either half, otherwise it’s 23)

1 TE Singleback Rogers: 4

1 TE Singleback Flynn: 5

2 TE Singleback Rodgers: 1

2 TE Singleback Flynn: 1

1 TE I Formation Rodgers: 5

1 TE I Formation Flynn: 4

0 TE I Formation Rodgers: 2

0 TE I Formation Flynn: 2

2 TE I Formation Rodgers: 1

2 TE I Formation Flynn: 4

From this we can see the following:

McCarthy called two more Shotguns for Rodgers. Five of them were the “Big 5” formation, while Flynn received no “Big Five” set calls. McCarthy called one more 1 TE singleback for Flynn and three more “Big” I Formation (2 TEs). Not counting the last drive of either half (which skew the calls based on time limitations), the calls were pretty equal, with one major difference: Flynn did not operate any of the “Big Five” sets. Perhaps one needs a bunch of practice to handle it and Flynn hadn’t practiced with the Number 1s, obviously.

As for the kind of plays that were run, McCarthy called nine running plays for Rodgers and six for Flynn. As far as the passing routes were concerned, Rodgers had many different kinds of calls: short, West Coasty routes, longer, slower developing down the field routes, screens, run-pass options, the whole book. As for Flynn, his was also a mixed bag but leaned more towards a short passing game. Now, there’s one thing to take into consideration: did McCarthy change to short passes to accommodate Flynn, or did he do it because anything more than a three step drop (or equivalent) usually ended up with a badly collapsed pocket? Flynn was still allowed to throw deep. The second drive of the third quarter, for example, saw back to back deep throws: one to driver (incomplete) and the other to Jennings (complete, 32 yard gain). Flynn was also allowed to check to a deep throw (which is what it seemed he did for Jennings’ TD). Therefore, I think McCarthy trusts Flynn with the gameplan and playbook. Is he going to be Rodgers? No. Are there things he does better differently than Rodgers? Yeah, obviously. Rodgers throws a gorgeous deep ball, and Flynn showed that he needs work on his. But Flynn has one thing Rodgers doesn’t: if his short read is open, he’ll throw it instead of waiting for a deeper man to get open. Rodgers will often wait for his deep man to get open if he thinks the coverage is conducive to a big play. Flynn either checked to a deep throw that he made quickly (one two three Mississippi)  or took the short completion.

Can He Make the Right Reads at the Line?

Short answer:  yes. Long answer: he did it multiple times. A run-pass option to Nelson that went for seven yards, a throw into the endzone that should have been a twenty two yard TD if Jennings catches it (the read was right, though the throw could have been better), and there was one other time where he could have gotten a big play had Clifton not gotten beat. What’s more important is that McCarthy trusted him to make the read at the line and didn’t take that away from him. He was off sometimes, but often his reads and checks were right. He’s a smart QB, and he knows how to read a defense (except, inexplicably, not looking to see if the Mike dropped off and taking for granted that he was going to blitz).

Can He Keep From Making Egregious Mistakes?

Unfortunately, this is where Flynn did not grade well. He made two big mistakes: going the wrong way on third and one, and not looking to see if the Mike had indeed blitzed. Those where his big mistakes. He had smaller ones, but those could simply be chalked up to not being on the same page with the receivers. He threw slants and outs as if he expected the receivers to take a couple of extra steps, and he seemed to underestimate Driver and Jennings’ speed (until he overthrew Jennings, of course) on the deep ball.

Can He Make a Play or Two?

Here’s a stat to thing about: nine out of the Packers’ top ten plays came at the hands of Flynn, the thirty two yard pass being the top one. But there were three big plays in particular that he should get real credit for: the long completion to Jennings, the third and ten run (even though people yelled at him for not sliding, they seem to miss the fact that he made a Rodgers-esque play: evading the entire Detroit D-Line to get a first down), and the third down completion to Jones on the last drive (with pressure all over him in his own endzone, I might add).  What was also very impressive about Flynn was his methodical drives. From what little we saw, he seems like a QB who can fit into McCarthy’s West Coast then Boom offense.

Conclusion:

We’re better off with Rodgers. Obviously. But to say Matt Flynn played terribly or that he’s “just a guy” is overstating it. He made two or three key mistakes, but his superstar wannabe receivers didn’t exactly help him any, even when he put them in a position to make a play (Jennings was particularly bad, dropping the touchdown he should catch if he’s top ten WRs, as well as failing to hang on to a catchable, yet still difficult, slant on second and three before the TD drop. He could have also tried to gain a few extra yards after his long catch). He also made two or three key plays, both with his arm and feet. Flynn is probably a system quarterback: he needs a good coach and a good supporting cast to succeed, and, though he won’t win you a Superbowl with his arm, still is better than most backup QBs in the league. But here in Green Bay, I think we’ve been terribly spoiled. The last two backup QBs to play led their teams to incredible performances (Brett vs. Cincy and A-Rod almost bringing GB back at Dallas before getting hurt). He’s not a hall of famer, and he doesn’t have Hall of Fame talent. He doesn’t have a strong arm (a lot of his balls came out really lazy-ish) or incredible accuracy. He is, however, solid, and he’s smart. And with a good cast around him, which he has, he can probably perform well enough to win a few games.

As long as those games aren’t @ New England.

In other words, please stop overreacting. No, he didn’t have an amazing game vs. the Lions. Some of it was def on him. Some of it was on the rest of the team. But he’s not the second coming of Derek Anderson.

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Written by AdmiralPrice

December 18, 2010 at 5:42 am

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