Packers prepare to 'Flynn it to win it'
Kelly Hodgson, Packers contributor
Are Packers' Matt Flynn, actor Matt Damon dopplegangers? Click here to compare. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Packers fans are fiercely loyal. We rarely do well with dramatic change. No one can forget the upheaval in Titletown in 2008 when the baton was passed from one legend to what turned out to be another.
For the past twenty years it has been just two of them: Brett and Aaron.
Sure, it took a good year for the Brett Favre loyalists to welcome the new field general into the Packers fold. But add another Lombardi Trophy to the case and tack on a league MVP honor and Aaron Rodgers has become a legend of his own.
We’ve had it good. There is no doubt about it. Spoiled even.
But let’s face it, the past month has been nothing short of bizarre. In that short span of time we have seen no less than four different QBs—whose styles are as unique as their fingerprints—take snaps under center.
That’s more than the total number of quarterbacks that have started for the Packers in the previous quarter-century. For a fan base that doesn’t do well with change, it certainly looks like we’re rolling with the punches fairly well.
But what’s the other alternative?
We rallied behind Seneca Wallace as Aaron Rodgers was learning his fate in the locker room during that Monday Night Football game against the Bears. We did the same after Wallace was the next to fall and welcomed the University of Wisconsin’s very own Scott Tolzien when he was tapped next. It didn’t seem that huge of a jump as many of us had cheered for him during his tenure as a Badger.
Yet when Matt Flynn was told to start warming up this past Sunday, it was different. When Flynn took the field, the atmosphere at Lambeau Field changed dramatically. The crowd came to life with cheers for the QB that we had not heard since Rodgers had taken a snap.
The Prodigal Son had returned. Matt Flynn was once again a Packer, and we all hoped he would lead us to victory once again.
At least that’s what we had hoped.
No, a tie is an anticlimactic end to any ball game. Wait, we’re done? It’s not supposed to be over yet. Flynn is going to be the savior that will keep our playoff hopes alive.
Only it didn’t happen that way.
But the Packers didn’t lose either.
In a way, Flynn entered the game and did the one thing head coach Mike McCarthy asked: he added a spark. And he stopped the continued hemorrhage of loses.
It reminded me a lot of that game three years ago against the New England Patriots. The Packers didn’t win that game either, but Flynn wouldn’t quit until the final whistle blew. It had been the first time Rodgers had missed a full game as a starter. That game could have been a continued tailspin of the previous week where former Cowboys’ coach Jimmy Johnson had declared that the Packers were done, and there was nothing left to do but stick a fork in them.
Though that game didn’t end in a victory either, Flynn had accomplished an admirable task. He kept his teammates energized, and more importantly, he kept hope alive.
Remember how that season ended?
With Matt Flynn once again in the mix, that sense of Musical Backups seems to have gone away. While he may have failed to claim starting roles in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, he managed to command a confident pocket presence this past week. His fluency of the Packers’ offense was obvious, and he seemed more at ease than Wallace or Tolzien.
Now don’t get me wrong, Wallace and Tolzien are fine quarterbacks. Each brought different talents to the table, but there is no question that the offense needed to be simplified—a Cliffs Notes version of the playbook—for them to function as the starter. How could it not? They simply did not have enough time to prepare and had to endure a baptism by fire.
Yet when Flynn took the field, that learning curve between snaps did not seem as daunting or steep. The no-huddle offense returned. The pace picked up. Without mincing words, the Packers were able to score consistently.
They say many quarterbacks are just “system quarterbacks.” I never know what to make of that sort of declaration. It’s usually code for not elite or won’t be good elsewhere.
But in the case of Matt Flynn, it is actually a compliment and describes him quite well. Matt Flynn is a system quarterback. Green Bay is his system, and Mike McCarthy is the coach that helped him develop. Of course he will do better returning home. He knows the system because it has been hardwired into him.
He was, and still is a Green Bay Packer.
In a way, he picked up right where he had dropped off two years ago. The coaches told him to warm up, because he was going in. And that’s exactly what he did without batting an eye.
I have no doubt Scott Tolzien will continue to flourish under Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school. He is likely the long term investment to back up Aaron Rodgers. In time, he too will develop the comfort and fluency that Flynn has managed to recapture.
In the meantime, there is definitely a sense of urgency with little room for growing pains or a steep learning curve.
Of course past performance is not a perfect gauge of future success. The Packers have changed, and the Lions have changed since 2011. But it’s hard to forget that the last time Matt Flynn played a full game against the Detroit Lions, he threw for 6 touchdowns and 480 yards.
He’s been down that road before and emerged victorious.
Hope and spark. That’s what the Green Bay Packers need right now. It’s what we all need to keep the dream of a post-season run a definite possibility. Flynn kept these concepts alive during the darkest parts of 2010, and I am hopeful he can do it again.
Mike McCarthy has named Flynn the starter for Thanksgiving in Detroit. The Prodigal Son has returned, and the Green Bay Packers are looking ahead to this make or break divisional match-up with every hope to "Flynn it to win it."