GREEN BAY – While Aaron Rodgers is proving to be the best quarterback in the NFL at the season’s midpoint, his backup is simply biding his time and focusing on his current team – the Green Bay Packers – instead of thinking about his own potential as a starter.
No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, said Wednesday that while Rodgers is on a record-setting pace through seven games for the undefeated Packers, he’s not allowing his own future to distract him.
“It’s not fair to my teammates, my coaches, all these people that I’m so close with, it’s not fair for me to look ahead. Because I’ve got to prepare myself in case something happens to Aaron,” Flynn said after another practice of running the scout team Wednesday. “I have to be prepared to step in.”
That’s exactly what Flynn did on Dec. 19 of last year, when in his first NFL start he completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards, with three touchdowns, one interception and five sacks for a passer rating of 100.2 in a 31-27 loss to the New England Patriots. Flynn started when Rodgers, who suffered a concussion at Detroit a week earlier, was not cleared to play against the Patriots.
Ever since that game, Flynn’s potential as the team’s latest little-used backup who could go on to have success as a starter elsewhere – a la Matt Hasselbeck – has been bandied about. It’s possible, although no one will ever know for sure, that the Packers would have dealt Flynn during the offseason if there hadn’t been a lockout.
To Flynn’s credit, he’s simply enjoying the season – he and Rodgers, his partner in crime for wacky photo hijinks, are good friends – and not focusing on what may lie ahead for him. He also acknowledged that he’s far from a finished product, despite his eye-opening performance against the Patriots.
“I don’t know, I guess that’s just my personality. I don’t ever count my eggs before they hatch,” said Flynn, who for his career has completed 49 of 84 regular-season passes for 497 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions for a 67.4 passer rating. “I think I take an approach of knowing I have work to do. I’m not the quarterback that I eventually want to be in the future. I have a lot of things to improve on and get better on. I look at each day as a chance to do that – a chance to make strides and be as good as I can.”
That can be difficult, however, when you’re not running your team’s offensive plays in practice. But, Flynn said, Rodgers has done his best to help prepare him for his opportunity someday.
“It’s kind of hard (because) I do the look team stuff during the week, so it’s not really running the offense, but I’m still running plays and playing football, so I feel good about it,” Flynn said. “I feel like I’ve made a steady progression each of my four years, and I owe a lot of that to Aaron. He’s helped me a ton. So to me, I go out every day and try to work on keeping my fundamentals sound and doing the little things right.”
While it would seem that Flynn’s departure in March 2012 is a foregone conclusion, how it happens is uncertain. When it was suggested to him Wednesday that the Packers could do what the Patriots did in 2009 with backup Matt Cassel – use their franchise tag on him – Flynn admitted that possibility hadn’t crossed his mind.
“They did do that to him, didn’t they?” Flynn said.
Cassel, who like Flynn was a seventh-round draft pick, took over the Patriots after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2008 season-opener. He ended up leading them to an 11-5 record that season – which somehow missed the playoffs – then was given the franchise tag and the $14.65 million one-year salary that came with it the following spring.
The Patriots, with Brady healing, had no intention of keeping Cassel at that number, and on March 1, 2009, dealt him to Kansas City along with linebacker Mike Vrabel for the Chiefs’ second-round pick, No. 34 overall.
Unlike Cassel, who threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while starting 15 games in ’08, Flynn will only have one start under his belt if Rodgers stays healthy. That may mean that the Packers won’t get as much for Flynn as they’d like.
“I would assume that Cassel might have had a little more trade value He started an entire season. I’ve got one game and some change in my career,” Flynn said. “But I forgot that they had done that. I don’t know. But I’m not worried about it.”
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