GREEN BAY, Wis. — This isn’t the way Matt Flynn wanted his NFL career to work out. Back in Green Bay less than two years after breaking multiple Packers franchise records just to be a midseason, emergency backup to a starting quarterback who was on the practice squad two weeks ago.
But Flynn’s disappointing stops with the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills have led the 28-year-old back to where his career started as a seventh-round pick in 2008.
“Definitely never expected to be back here in this locker room,” Flynn said. “I feel very fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity, but looking back at the last year and a half, last two seasons, it definitely didn’t go the way I planned on it, for whatever reason that was.”
Despite Flynn’s lack of success elsewhere, he was a dependable No. 2 quarterback for the Packers who was often able to orchestrate coach Mike McCarthy’s offense well when called upon. And while positive results didn’t follow Flynn after he left Green Bay, McCarthy believes that the components of what made it click the first time around are still present.
“He looks very similar to the way he did in 2011,” McCarthy said. “I thought he threw it as I remember him. His conditioning was about the same. He was about the same size. He looks like he’s never left.”
It had been 22 months since Flynn packed up his locker inside Lambeau Field for what he thought was the last time ever. The time between then and now ticked by slowly, though, as Flynn endured the rockiest moments of his football career.
“First time I walked in here it seemed like it’s been about 10 years,” Flynn said.
Flynn wasn’t sure what exactly went wrong after his record-breaking performance in Week 17 of the 2011 season was enough to earn him $10 million guaranteed in a contract from the Seahawks. That’s obviously the kind of money only given to a starting quarterback. But one month after he signed that deal, Seattle drafted Russell Wilson in the third round, and by the end of training camp, Flynn wasn’t the better option of the two.
That didn’t deter one team from still viewing Flynn as a potential starter, with the Raiders sending a fifth-round pick to the Seahawks with the intention of making him QB1. That didn’t work out, either, with Terrelle Pryor winning the job and Flynn being released soon after. Three weeks with the Buffalo Bills this season also didn’t pan out.
“I have no regrets about it,” Flynn said. “I feel like I worked my tail off everywhere I went, controlled what I could control and things just didn’t work out, for whatever reason it was, things didn’t work out the way I planned or saw in my head.
“But I feel like I’m still the same player I was when I left here and I’m still a confident guy, a confident player.”
Flynn dealt with an elbow injury during training camp this year and there were reports that it was physically holding him back, but he insists that it was only during that time period that it was a problem.
“No issue,” Flynn said. “I can perform and throw at 100 percent.”
“Based on the medical examination, they’re fine with the testing and everything that’s been run,” McCarthy said. “Yes, he was cleared medically.”
Though it’s been all downhill for Flynn, there is game film that exists that demonstrates just how good he can be. Seattle’s front office certainly had Flynn’s 480-yard, six-touchdown performance on repeat before making him the big offer. But Flynn hasn’t felt a need to think about or watch those highlights as any sort of reminder about the skills that he possesses.
“I’m always a confident person, I don’t need visual proof or whatever,” Flynn said. “I know what I can do. I know I can play in this league. Nothing anybody says or opinions that anybody else has is going to affect me because, frankly, I don’t really care about it.
“I know that my best football is in front of me.”
To be clear, however, the Packers have no plans of elevating Flynn ahead of Scott Tolzien as the starting quarterback in the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Flynn will only play if Tolzien gets injured, and that’s not a scenario that McCarthy is even willing to entertain after having to watch Rodgers get hurt two weeks ago and Seneca Wallace get hurt Sunday.
“We’re not going to need him, OK?,” McCarthy said of Flynn. “I’ve had enough of this bad karma about quarterbacks getting injured. So, Scott’s going to play the whole game.”
If Flynn is forced into action, it will be a lot easier than it would be for most just-signed backup quarterbacks. The passing game is basically the same as it was when Flynn was in Green Bay in 2011, but McCarthy said the running game has “changed a lot” from a terminology standpoint.
McCarthy’s avoidance of the possibility of Flynn being needed Sunday against the New York Giants aside, the Packers can rest somewhat comfortably knowing that the quarterback behind Tolzien is ready. Ready and still plenty confident.
“I feel like I’m still the same guy as when I left here,” Flynn said. “I know I can play the position. I know I can play in the NFL.”