The last time Matt Flynn waited this long for a chance to become a team’s starting quarterback, the last time he bided time because more heralded and experienced quarterbacks were ahead in line or he fell short in a competition, it worked out pretty well.
Flynn, in a quarterback competition with Terrelle Pryor to start for the Oakland Raiders, completed 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards and one TD in the first half against the Saints in a preseason game Friday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He wasn’t a full-time starter at LSU until he was a redshirt senior. That was five years after he stepped on campus in Baton Rouge, after Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell had had their turns at the wheel because of seniority and talent.
So while wearing headsets on NFL sidelines in Green Bay and Seattle, and watching Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Russell Wilson (Seahawks) win a Super Bowl (Rodgers) and playoff games (Rodgers and Wilson), might drive a lesser quarterback to the brink, Flynn, at least, had his LSU experience to lean on. He knows that patience can pay off big time.
Back then, in his final season with the Tigers, he led LSU to the 2007 BCS National Championship and was named offensive MVP of the win over Ohio State.
Now, he has an opportunity to lead the Oakland Raiders, who haven’t posted a winning season since 2002. And all indications are that the job is his to lose.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about him,” said Jim Plunkett, a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Raiders, who now co-hosts several Raiders television shows and also does a postgame radio for the team. “He hadn’t played very much in five years, two starts in Green Bay, which he performed very well, then he went to Seattle and he gets beat out by Russell Wilson. I think that was a blow to him, as it would be to anybody, because they brought him in to start.
“So I think he had a lot to prove to the Raiders, to himself and to the league when he got here and he’s handled himself with a lot of composure, a lot of confidence and he’s performed well. It’s still early, but he’s our guy for now.”
It will surprise no one – at least, no one who saw Flynn at LSU – if he isn’t the guy for now, and for later.
The Tigers lost one game during Flynn’s senior season and while he wasn’t a standout physical specimen with a rifle arm or sprinter’s speed, what he did do spectacularly was lead LSU week after week.
That trait was among several that persuaded the Packers to select him in the seventh round (No. 209 overall) in 2008, even though the franchise already had selected another quarterback in the same draft (Brian Brohm of Louisville, in the second round, No. 56 overall).
Flynn beat out Brohm for a spot on the roster, caddied four seasons for Rodgers, set franchise single-game records for passing yards (480) and passing touchdowns (six) in one of his two starts, then signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with Seattle as a free agent last year.
But he was beaten out by Wilson, a rookie, for the starting position and was traded to Oakland this year, in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2014 and a conditional draft pick in 2015.
Now, again, he is expected to be a starter. This time, he appears to be in line to do that in the Raiders’ regular-season opener in Indianapolis on Sept. 8.
“Talking to (Raiders) Coach (Dennis) Allen even today, he mentioned those kinds of things – (Flynn) finds a way to win, he finds a way to get the job done. Physically, he’s probably not your most impressive NFL quarterback but a lot of guys play bigger than they are. They find a way to get the job done. So far he has shown that kind of mettle.”
He showed it in five seasons at LSU. The Raiders hope that after five NFL seasons, he’s ready to show it again. After Friday's game Flynn reflected on his memories of the Superdome.
"I have really good memories of this place," he said. "Especially all of the great things that happened to me playing here in college. But we were coming out here as a football team to get better. And in the first half that clearly didn't happen. We've got a lot of work to do and we have a lot to learn from tonight."
Raiders Coach Dennis Allen was non-commital about Flynn's play.
"I think we will go back and look at the tape and see how he played," Allen said. "Obviously, everybody plays a part in the protection issues. It's the quarterback, it's the line, it's the receivers. ...I thought he did a nice job in the two-minute drive of getting us down the field and getting us some points."