Who can forget the final preseason game of his rookie year at Lambeau Field? Stepping in with the Packers on their own 15-yard line and trailing Tennessee by eight points with 2:19 left, Flynn – with only a few reps in the 2-minute drill in practice under his belt, and a small fraction of the playbook in his knowledge bank – led an impressive 85-yard scoring drive that included a 20-yard completion on fourth-and-1, a 21-yard scramble with less than 30 seconds left, and a 22-yard TD pass as the clock hit zero.
That the subsequent 2-point conversion attempt failed and Flynn didn’t get a chance to win the game in overtime seemed immaterial. The lightly regarded prospect from LSU who lasted until the 209th overall pick in the draft – even though he had led his team to the BCS national championship as a senior – had proven he might have a future in the NFL.
Fast forward almost two full years and it’s clear Flynn has developed into much more than that “make-something-happen” rookie.
Heading into Flynn’s third season, both offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements now see a signal caller who has gained arm strength, improved his accuracy and earned the confidence of his coaches and teammates to lead the Green Bay offense should anything happen to starter Aaron Rodgers in 2010.
“I think he just gets better and better,” Philbin said. “I like the way he comes into the huddle, I like the way he takes charge of the huddle, I like the way he hustles, I like the way he spits the play out in the huddle.
“I think he has a pretty good command of what’s going on from a defensive standpoint and how his job may change before the snap (and/or) during the play.”
Added Clements: “I think they have confidence in him making plays. He runs the team the way we want him to run the team. He’s good in the huddle, and he gets the guys where they’re supposed to be.”
So how did Flynn come so far, so fast, going from a seventh-round flier to a legitimate No. 2 quarterback with starting potential? Two offseasons in Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s (and Clements’) QB school and some late-season game action in 2009 had a lot to do with it.
Like a lot of young quarterbacks, Flynn made a significant jump from his rookie year to his second season after going through a full NFL offseason program for the first time. But Flynn continued to use his second go-round through McCarthy’s QB school wisely this past spring.
“Going through it a second year was more about fine-tuning things I learned my first year,” Flynn said. “Instead of my first year when it was trying to make big jumps and big strides, it was more about fine-tuning the details of the offense, and I feel really good about it. I feel like I’ve had a good offseason, and I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year at this time.”
That’s also due in part to his regular-season game experience from the final two contests of 2009. Against Seattle in Week 16, Flynn led his first two scoring drives as a pro. He was impressive in using a scrambling 17-yard throw to Jordy Nelson to convert a third-and-12 and set up a field goal, and in going deep to Nelson on the ensuing drive to draw a pass interference call, which eventually led to a touchdown.
Though Flynn did throw an interception the following week in Arizona when he had the Packers in scoring range again, his play was far more encouraging than his nondescript, and unproductive, regular-season debut at Tampa Bay in 2008 (two series, 2-of-5 passing for 6 yards).
“It was good to go out there and perform a little bit and do some of the things I do in practice during a game situation,” Flynn said. “It was good to get down there and lead a couple scoring drives. Those were my first scoring drives in real games. It was fun, something I’ll look back on and try to work on.”
His next chance to build on that experience comes next month during the preseason games. A shoulder injury robbed Flynn of much of the preseason last year, so there wasn’t an opportunity to repeat the noteworthy 2-minute drive from his rookie campaign.
But he’d certainly love another crack at it, or any extended playing time for that matter.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Flynn said of the upcoming preseason. “I can’t wait. I think we have a good group of guys. I think the second unit should be real sharp out there and have a chance to have a lot of success.”
Health and opportunity permitting, Flynn’s development should be worth watching in an offense that seemingly has all the pieces in place.
He’s confident but coachable, unproven yet not undisciplined. Perhaps most important, he’s still a sparkplug that’s getting fine-tuned along the way.
“I always say it about Matt -- he has a knack for making plays,” Clements said. “Whether it’s moving around and running, or moving around and throwing to a guy on the move, or just sitting back and making a throw. I think he’s a playmaker. He’s poised when things are breaking down around him. He doesn’t get flustered. Those are good qualities to have.
“From the initial year he got here, he’s worked hard at developing into a drop-back quarterback. They didn’t do that much at LSU. But he’s been in it now for three years and he’s solid fundamentally, and he’s being productive.”