The concept of the ‘contract year’ is prevalent in professional sports.
Players commonly outperform expectations in the final year of their contracts, setting themselves up for a tasty payday.
However, career backup quarterback Matt Flynn has found himself in an intriguing, albeit soul crushing predicament as the victim of a much more rarely occurring phenomenon: the contract game.
On January 1, 2012, Flynn started the final game of the regular season for the Green Bay Packers versus the Lions, and by doing so, he did something never before accomplished in the storied history of the Packers. Aaron Rodgers never did it. Neither did Brett Favre. Or Bart Starr.
480 yards and 6 passing touchdowns.
So he got paid. Matt Flynn got paid for one single game. That’s right. Matt Flynn, a quarterback that had started all but three games total in his career, was given a three-year, $20.5 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) by the Seattle Seahawks.
In fairness, Seattle had hoped that Flynn would be their future starter. It looked like a steal. Utter robbery – bamboozlement, even.
For three seasons, Flynn backed up and learned from Rodgers, who, before he became arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, had studied under the tutelage of Brett Favre. Had the Seahawks found their next franchise quarterback?
No, no they hadn’t.
Flynn didn’t start a single game in Seattle due to Russell Wilson’s stellar preseason performance. Poor Matt. He finally has an opportunity to showcase his ‘talents’ to the world and some undersized third round draft pick shows up and, not only steals his job, but leads the team to its third best record in franchise history, first playoff road victory in over 30 years, and gets elected to the Pro Bowl. Tough shake.
No longer needing a $20+ million backup quarterback, the Seahawks shipped Flynn of to the Oakland Raiders in April of this year for a 5th round pick in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2015. Raiders coach Dennis Allen proclaimed to the world that Flynn was brought in to be the starter and turn the team around after ten consecutive miserable seasons. Had the Raiders found their next franchise quarterback?
Sigh. No, no they hadn’t.
Flynn didn’t start a single game in Oakland either, losing the starting job to supplemental draft pick Terrelle Pryor, who had only played in *gasp* three total games in his NFL career. Sounds familiar.
When Pryor went down with a concussion in week 3 (and was out in week 4), it was Matty Flyce’s time to shine. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown (and a pick-six) against Washington – a respectable statline, but failed to lead the offense to any scores after the first quarter. Still, his performance was good enough to earn him another start, right?
Nope. With Pryor back, Flynn was again demoted by Dennis Allen. To third string. Behind the undrafted Matt McGloin, a rookie out of Penn State – a school that hasn’t developed a half-decent offensive player since Kerry Collins. Seriously.
Just six months after Allen paraded Flynn to Raider Nation as the savior, he was gone.
His seemingly forced free agency didn’t last long, though, for the Buffalo Bills were in need of a backup quarterback. With EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, and Jeff Tuel all battling various injuries, Flynn was brought in to essentially command the fourth string. But the honeymoon didn’t last long and Flynn was cut yesterday morning, just one week after signing.
It’s not a ridiculous notion to think that Flynn will probably catch on with other teams here and there for a couple more years before he retires. Teams are always in need of an experienced backup, but his hopes of having a Ty Detmer, Steve DeBerg, or Steve Bono-esque comfortable career as a lifetime backup quarterback is likely over.
Just to recap, here’s a timeline of Matt Flynn’s depressing downward spiral in the NFL.
- March 2012: Signed a 3-year, $20.5 million contract with the Seahawks to be their starting QB
- September 2012: Lost starting job to Russell Wilson
- April 2012: Traded to Raiders to be their starting QB
- September 2013: Lost job to Terrelle Pryor, demoted to third string QB
- October 2013: Released by Raiders, signed by Bills to 1-year contract
- November 2013: Cut by Bills
So what happened? Is Matt Flynn simply a good quarterback that is the victim of a series of unfortunate events? No. He’s just not very good. Like, at all. Remember the concept of the contract game? He’s a victim of that. It’s not really his fault, he was just doing his best in a no-pressure and meaningless end-of-the-regular-season game against the seventh worst passing defense with a highly efficient offense at his disposal.
He’s not the first, nor the last mediocre player to fall victim of a big payday following a small sample size performance. Hell, the Ravens made poor man’s Alex Smith, Joe Flacco the highest paid player in NFL history after his ‘contract playoff’ performance. JOE FLACCO. And let’s not forget the saga of Tim Tebow, either. Ugh.
When all is said and done, Flynn will be an NFL afterthought. He had his game of glory and was expected to perform at a level he simply wasn’t good enough to sustain.
But ALAS! There may be hope yet! With Aaron Rodgers on the shelf for the next three weeks with a broken collarbone, Flynn could make a valiant return to Green Bay to serve as the backup to none other than… Seneca Wallace. But as we saw with Flynn before, he’s quite serviceable in Mike McCarthy’s offense, so who knows, his destiny could be to Mike McCarthy’s permanent backup quarterback.
If it doesn’t work out, at least he married a beauty queen. So there’s that.