Matt Flynn’s Seattle future is a competition, not a coronation

Doug Farrar

If Matt Flynn was under the impression that he'd be an automatic starter with his new NFL team, his new head coach -- Seattle's Pete Carroll -- disabused him of that notion rather quickly. It is not known what kind of starter security Flynn was offered by new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin (Flynn's offensive coordinator in Green Bay), but Flynn signed a three-year deal with the Seahawks on Sunday that guarantees him $10 million and could top out at $26 million. What that contract did not guarantee him, as Carroll said during a Monday media conference call, was immediate job security over Tarvaris Jackson. The reality may be different, but Carroll stuck to his "Always Compete" manifesto from the start.

"We're very clear how we delivered the message that we now have the opportunity to make it an open competition," Carroll said. "Tarvaris is well ahead, and he's the guy that's here and working for us now. I talked to [Tarvaris] yesterday, that what we're doing with Matt --  bringing him in here to compete for the job, make everybody better, and help our football team. That's really clearly where it is. There are really no surprises here."

Before the 2011 season, the Seahawks cut ties with longtime starter Matt Hasselbeck, and brought Jackson in from Minnesota because he was familiar with the offensive system run by former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. It was a shotgun wedding of sorts, made necessary by the time constraints of the lockout, and Carroll named Jackson the starter before there could be a competition. "We had to go ahead and make a decision early, but that's not the case right now," Carroll said. "I expect T-Jack to be better and I expect Matt to come in here guns blazin', trying to see if he can take that job. It'll be a great situation for us."

Flynn appeared to have no problem with that concept -- as a seventh-round draft pick who had to surprise a lot of people just to get to this point, he's used to beating the odds. It was apparent in talking with him that Flynn's uphill climb has given him a resolve that should serve him well.

"I've always been a very competitive guy, I've always been a very confident guy and I've always been a guy that believes in working his tail off and doing the best he can," Flynn said on Monday. "I know that I'm going be in a competition and I know that whatever my role is, I just want to make the Seattle Seahawks a better football team.. I think there's an opportunity there to have a very special team and a very special organization. I'm excited about it and I'm just going to come in and work my tail off and try to make the Seahawks better.

"Coach Carroll and I talked about it -- he's big on competition and I've always been a firm believer in competition. I think it brings the best out of everybody. That's what I'm looking forward to, and I can't wait to get it rolling."

Flynn, who excelled in two NFL starts for the Packers (one in 2010, one in 2011) knows that while he's in a new system, there's no schematic disadvantage for him. Bevell spent 2000 through 2005 as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach -- while he didn't cross paths with Flynn in Green Bay, the offense Seattle runs was familiar enough that Flynn could wow the Seahawks brass when he went to the whiteboard to draw up plays.

"There's a real similar background," Carroll said. "The origins of the West Coast terminology are similar and the fact that Bev had been through some of the days there with the Packers and all, there's a real common language. The coaches were at ease speaking from the formations to the play calls, to schematics on the defensive side of the ball. It went very smoothly. That all just extenuated that we could hopefully make a transition and be very smooth for Matt to learn what's going on, and to fit in, and be able to express his ability as soon as possible."

Working with Aaron Rodgers didn't hurt, either. Learn from the best, right? Flynn said that Rodgers was always ready with a helping hand. "I've learned a lot from him and I can't put a price on the time I've spent in Green Bay, learning from Aaron, learning from the coaches up there. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in the spot I am today. They've helped my game — everything from the mental aspect to the physical. I think I've grown in the last four years and learned a lot about how to play football, what defenses [opponents are] trying to do — I've learned a lot about what it takes to be a starter in the NFL. I feel very privileged to have been a part of that organization. Hopefully, I can just take what I've learned there and keep applying it and keep learning."

Before they signed him, the Seahawks asked Flynn to go through a throwing session, and he readily agreed -- again, competition.

"[Seahawks general manager John] Schneider helped draft me in Green Bay and he was there for a couple years while I was there," Flynn said. "He was really the only person that knew me and had seen me play live. So I think they just wanted to see me throw, see my footwork, see the different throws I could make, just to get more of a familiarity with me. They asked me to do it and I was totally up for it. We kind of had fun out there in the workout. It was real laid back and it wasn't like a pressure cooker or anything like that. They just wanted to see me in action, I guess.

"I didn't know going into it that I was going to do throwing, but they asked me, and I was all for it."

Flynn had a clear choice to make -- go with what he knew in Miami with Philbin, or take a chance on a new environment. Asked to reflect on the process, he said that it wasn't a difficult decision to make.

"I didn't really know what to expect," he sad. "I went up there with an open mind, just trying to take it all in and learn as much as I can. Everything — the city was great, the facilities are great. The vibe I got up there from the staff, the coaches, everything — like I said before, it really felt like a family atmosphere, a program that has all its pieces together. It's going in the right direction and it's doing things the right way and that was something that I was excited to be a part of.

"I got to watch them a few times last year and they had a very good defense. I think it's the second-youngest team in the NFL and I think they have a lot of talent all around the ball. Great running game, a very talented group of receivers and an offensive line that is very talented and does a very nice job. It's just a position that I think was the spot that made the most sense and has the best chance of being something special in the near future."

And while Carroll is very happy with the Flynn/Jackson combo, he did admit that the stories were true -- the Seahawks were all in on Peyton Manning, and their team plane did make a stop in Denver last week to try and get Manning on board -- literally and figuratively.

"Yeah, we tried to hook up with him and we couldn't make it come together. We tried to fit in to their schedule that looked like it had some space in it, but there wasn't enough. So we made an effort. It's kind of just classic for us — just competing to try to find a way and we just couldn't pull it off at that time. We had to take a shot at that. It didn't work out for us there. We had already spoken before that and we just couldn't quite get together on it."

At the very least, Carroll should be relieved that the Denver Broncos' new franchise quarterback didn't move to the NFC, right? "I like that," he said with a laugh. "Yeah, I like that. He'll continue to serve the AFC in great fashion. I'm glad he's over there."

As for Jackson, who was benched two straight seasons in Minnesota in favor of some guy named Brett Favre ... well, he has to be wondering why these former Green Bay quarterbacks keep messing with his reps.