By Brock Huard
Seahawk fans, welcome to life with a franchise quarterback, and for arguably the first time in franchise history, having a homegrown, cost effective (for now) franchise passer.
Your life as a fan has changed. You can no longer banter about a lack of respect or wonder what fandom is like for the Saints, Broncos, Patriots and the select, lucky few who have the most important position in sports filled with a player they trust to build around. You are now a part of the “haves” instead of the “have-nots,” and with most things in life, there are a few trade-offs (no pun intended).
You see, life with Russell Wilson means sacrificing a little, and in the case of backup Matt Flynn, sacrificing a $10 million payday from 2012 that paid no dividends on the field. Last week’s trade to Oakland for a couple late-round selections in 2014 and ’15 also closed the book on any future dividends of a competent, quality backup.
So why make the move? General manager John Schneider clearly stated there was a model in place to keep Flynn aboard, and from a fiscal, salary-cap perspective Flynn was not harming the budget.
In my opinion, there were three reasons Flynn became expendable:
Flynn’s talent and upside
One year ago when Flynn was signed, the organization made it very clear he would compete for the starting job. The competition, the contract and the drafting of Wilson in the third round backed up those words and more importantly were signs that while Flynn was liked by the Seahawks’ evaluators, he was by no means loved.
The Seahawks’ war room had a very similar split with the 25th pick in the 2011 draft. Many liked Andy Dalton and had a desire to select him, but there was not enough consensus in the room that Dalton had the unique talent and upside to be elite. Two seasons later, that evaluation hits the mark as Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs and been an excellent facilitator, but to this point hasn’t shown the ability to carry the franchise and be more game-changer than game-manager.
Schneider and coach Pete Carroll seek and desire difference-makers with a unique skillset that fits into their schematic and personnel puzzle. While Flynn is polished and fundamental, he is not dynamic in any capacity, whether it be arm talent, movement, size or strength.
Thus, it should not have been surprising that very few made a run for his services in free agency last year, and why those most familiar with him – Joe Philbin in Miami, Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, John Idzik in New York – said thanks, but no thanks.
While Seahawk fans love SPAM (Spending Paul Allen’s Money), Schneider and new capologist Matt Thomas have the responsibility of spreading that dough around for years to come.
Three million here, six million there goes a long way in the business models the Seahawks employ. In fact, the $3.25 million cap savings on Flynn’s deal this season may allow for a contract with Kam Chancellor to get done. Taking Flynn’s $6 million salary off the books in 2014 may facilitate a deal with Pro Bowler Earl Thomas.
The pencil sharpening and the penny counting will only get more difficult and challenging in the coming years. An opportunity to add more cost-controlled draft picks in 2014 and ’15, and more importantly to stay out ahead of the budget, played a role in moving Flynn.
Wilson needs an engaged backup
Carroll said in no uncertain terms during the combine that Wilson’s commitment and work ethic cannot be discounted or downplayed when it comes to player acquisition.
After spending two years in Indianapolis with an equally driven and demanding quarterback by the name of Peyton Manning, I can understand Carroll’s sentiment. Watching Manning work, and just as importantly watching Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James commit equally to their craft, elevated everyone in the building. As a backup, it meant trying to keep up with No. 18 with off-day meetings, early game-planning sessions and extra time with film study. Either buy in, commit and grab an oar or go elsewhere.
It was my understanding that last season it was Wilson who was in early and staying late. It was Wilson in the facility on Tuesdays getting a head start on the game plan. Wilson was grabbing the oars and had very little if any help from the backup. Josh Portis was actually more willing than Flynn to commit to the extra-credit time when no one was watching.
Let me be clear: Wilson showed last year he doesn’t need a cheerleader or another set of hands in the meeting room to do his job and to do it well. But he will also be heading into some uncharted waters in the year(s) ahead. He will be the hunted and the favorite, not the underdog. He will be carrying a weight of expectations unlike anything he experienced at North Carolina State, Wisconsin or as a rookie proving his way last season.
Having a peer or two to confide in, a quarterback room with clear and established roles, and a work force willing to grab an oar and do a little more may just make the difference in a long and challenging journey to New York City next February.