Flynn: Gaining trust and taking charge
After a disappointing stay in Seattle, Matt Flynn (red) is ready to lead the Raiders back to the playoffs. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Matt Flynn throws during Raiders training camp in Napa, CA. (AP)
Matt Flynn understands that opportunities lost are rarely regained. Especially in the NFL. Especially following a failure so public.
The quarterback was a prized free agent in 2012, resting largely on the laurels of two outstanding starts in Green Bay. The game tape was good enough to woo several suitors, whom Flynn considered equally before choosing Seattle and the three-year, $26 million contract offered.
We know how this story goes. Flynn was the presumptive starter heading into camp, and lost out to an unheralded rookie.
[RELATED: Matt Flynn trying to take the lead]
That’s the Cliffs Notes version. Additional, pertinent info: Turns out Russell Wilson is pretty darn good. Turns out Flynn had elbow troubles in training camp that hindered his effectiveness, which the team kept quiet. And, it turns out Flynn and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll won’t be best friends forever.
All that is prelude to this. The Raiders gave Flynn another chance to start, albeit at a reduced rate with no future risk. There is no guaranteed money in next season’s pay structure, so this is Flynn’s best, and probably last chance to be a franchise quarterback.
“I came in here excited, feeling blessed to have this opportunity, a second opportunity really, to get a starting job in the NFL,” Flynn said. “I came in here with the mentality that I am going to be that guy. You have to walk in with confidence and have a presence about yourself. You have to go in there and act like you’re the guy.”
There is less confidence he can be. Somehow, after throwing just nine regular-season passes in 2012, Flynn was downgraded from hot commodity to penny stock. Without a polished resume, his ability to be a full-time starter is in doubt. His arm strength has been questioned – and rightfully so – but Flynn throws short and intermediate passes of quality.
That’s what he’ll be asked to do in coordinator Greg Olson’s offense, which is built around running back Darren McFadden. Flynn must be a game manager and team leader in this structure, which he’s done well since becoming a Raider this offseason.
“He always seems to make the right play,” McFadden said. “He’s a great leader out there. He puts us in the right situations, and he hasn’t turned the ball over many times in this camp. I’m looking forward to seeing him in a live game situation.”
[RELATED: Camp report -- Matt Flynn already locked in]
Friday’s exhibition against Dallas will be a progress report on Flynn as much as anyone, too see what’s been accomplished thus far. He understands the stakes, and the daunting task undertaken on a team largely devoid of established talent.
Flynn believes in this group and its potential. At every stage, Flynn has tried to showcase the leadership required of his position.
“As a quarterback, you have to take charge,” Flynn said. “Everyone on the offense was starting from ground zero because we had a new coordinator and a new scheme.
“My experience is in two West Coast offenses, so my learning curve hasn’t been as big as some of the other guys. I think that helped build chemistry and a strong relationship with everybody because I was able to teach and help get these guys learn the offense.”
While Flynn hasn’t been formally named the starter, it’s a poorly kept secret that he will be. Terrelle Pryor has improved his accuracy and decision-making, but is too inconsistent to deserve the top spot.
Fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson has struggled with the mental rigors of training camp and has fallen behind undrafted free agent Matt McGloin on the depth chart.
That leaves Flynn as the safest bet.
It might be a high complement from a team looking for stability at quarterback. He’s shown that ability throughout his Raiders tenure.
“I think he’s gotten a better grasp of what we’re trying to do offensively,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I think he’s more in command of what we’re doing. I think obviously, from the process through OTAs, through minicamp and now into training camp, he’s really progressed well. It’ll be good to put him in live action and see what he does against another opponent.”
Flynn wants to see little things done right against the Cowboys. He expects assignment-sound offense, with proper technique. He wants a few first downs and no mental mistakes. From a personal standpoint, Flynn wants to prove himself deserving of a starting spot.
“He’s a fighter,” McFadden said. “I’ve known him since college and he’s always been that way. Whether he’s declared the starter or he has to win the job, he’s going to fight for this team every day. “