Matt Flynn 'deserves' to start, but Packers keeping options open
Mike McCarthy made it clear he wants both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien ready to play on Thursday.
By PAUL IMIGFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. --Matt Flynn deserves to start at quarterback for the
Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving. At least that’s what Mike McCarthy thinks. Yet, despite that declaration from the coach, Flynn remains in limbo as to whether he’ll actually get what he deserves.
“I would like to start,” Flynn said. “I definitely want to. But that’s not my decision to make. Whoever’s out there gives us the best chance, whoever the coach feels that is. Whatever happens, I’m here and I do what they tell me to do.”
Flynn rallied the Packers back from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings to force overtime. Though Green Bay only got a tie out of it, Flynn’s performance -- 21-of-36 passing for 218 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions -- kept the Packers from losing their fourth consecutive game.
While Flynn certainly wasn’t perfect, he gave the team the spark that McCarthy was looking for.
As Flynn entered, Scott Tolzien exited. In the previous two games, one of which Tolzien started and the other of which he stepped in for an injured Seneca Wallace, the former practice-squad quarterback was very accurate on deep passes. Tolzien’s downfall in those two games was his five interceptions, but in Sunday’s game with the Vikings, the script was reversed. He didn’t throw an interception, but he also was only able to complete 7-of-17 passes for 98 yards.
“It was very disappointing to me,” Tolzien said. “I felt like I'm an accurate quarterback. I don't know what the final stat line was, but I know it wasn't 50 percent. That's bad. I'm not going to try to sugarcoat it. I'm going to learn from it and keep pressing to get better."
The obvious answer for Green Bay at quarterback is a healthy Aaron Rodgers, but McCarthy said that the former NFL Most Valuable Player has a “slim to none” chance of playing Thursday at Detroit. At kickoff time of that upcoming game, Rodgers will still be just 3-1/2 weeks removed from breaking his left collarbone, an injury that was likely to keep him out at least four games. This would mark his fourth game missed.
With a short week to prepare and the Packers about to eclipse more than one month since they’ve last won a game -- which is not coincidentally timed with the date of Rodgers’ injury, McCarthy is keeping his options open at quarterback. Perhaps he’s just trying to keep the Lions guessing, therefore forcing Detroit to spend the little time available this week studying both quarterbacks. But with Green Bay technically choosing between its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks, McCarthy is choosing neither at the moment.
“Well, we’re going to play either Matt or Scott, obviously,” McCarthy said. “I’ll be honest, the conversation we had as an offensive staff is we’ve got to get two quarterbacks ready, frankly. This experience that we’ve gone through the last four weeks with a different quarterback in four straight games, we’re taking a hard look at our preparation.”
Flynn and Tolzien are both planning to go into the truncated practice schedule this week as the starter. That’s a big change for Flynn, however, based on what he’s done in practice over the past two weeks since signing with the Packers on Nov. 12.
“I think I got four each week,” Flynn said, referencing the number of snaps he’d gotten with the starting offense in practice. “So, I think eight (total snaps in two weeks).”
With less than a handful of plays with the first-string offense for Flynn, clearly there hadn’t been any debate during those two weeks as to who Green Bay’s starter was going to be. McCarthy had announced Tolzien as the starter multiple days in advance for both the Week 11 road game at the New York Giants and for Sunday’s game with the Vikings.
When asked why he doesn’t just choose either Flynn or Tolzien now, McCarthy responded, “Because I don’t have to.”
It seemed as if McCarthy had his mind made up by saying Flynn “deserves to start.” But that apparently isn’t the case.
“I want them both ready, is what I’m saying,” McCarthy said. “With the experience we had (Sunday) in the game, we went to the no-huddle, for example. We didn’t practice no-huddle all week. There’s a lot of good things the offense did (Sunday). Matt Flynn, I thought did an excellent job coming in based on his preparation to perform on Sundays.
“Game plans don’t always go the way you want. We got into a deal here where we’re doing things we’re not even practicing. So that’s what we’re taking a hard look at, is if we can kind of bridge the gap of, I don’t want to say being more conservative, (but) making sure Matt’s ready.
“Matt played very well. He deserves to start. I like the way Scott has grown. So those are the things we’re talking about. So we’re going to do the best we can to make sure they’re both ready.”
Tolzien was very candid after the game, going as far as to say he would’ve benched himself too, given the way that the first 35 minutes of action had gone for the Packers’ offense. It wasn’t all bad for Tolzien, though. He led an 87-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter that was capped off by Tolzien scrambling and pulling off a spin move that will forever lead his highlight reel, no matter how many more games he starts in the NFL. But it went downhill from there, as Green Bay had only 87 yards of offense in the following five series before the quarterback change.
"Rollercoaster game. Rollercoaster season,” Tolzien said. “You just move forward one day at a time. Move forward and put that behind you. You learn from it certainly. If you learn from it, it can end up being a positive. It's good learning and I look forward to moving on."
The logical move for the Packers -- unless Rodgers makes a miraculous recovery -- would be to start Flynn in this game. Like Wallace and Tolzien in recent weeks, the prevailing idea is that Flynn should do even better in the game if given starter’s reps in Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices. But, for now, Green Bay is without a definitive starting quarterback, and that’s not where a team with a 5-5-1 record who’s fighting for a playoff spot wants to be.
“I think you always have to have two quarterbacks ready to go,” Flynn said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ll be ready no matter if I take 0 percent, 50 percent, 100 percent of the reps. I’ll be ready to roll.”