Then and now: Giving Matt Flynn a chance

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
7:02
PM ET
Similarities between Matt Flynn and Matt Hasselbeck border on eery.

Flynn, like Hasselbeck in 2001, came to the Seattle Seahawks from the Green Bay Packers. Both were reunited in Seattle with personnel people they knew in Green Bay (John Schneider for Flynn, Ted Thompson for Hasselbeck).

Matt Flynn
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireThe Seahawks believe they have a strong supporting cast in place for Matt Flynn.
Flynn is 25 years old. Hasselbeck was 26. Both quarterbacks, though unproven, appeared close to joining the Miami Dolphins before landing in Seattle.

Flynn's new coach, Pete Carroll, has a 14-18 record and one playoff appearance with the Seahawks. He has been on the job for 26 months. Hasselbeck's coach in 2001, Mike Holmgren, had a 15-17 record and one playoff appearance with Seattle. He had been on the job for 26 months when the Seahawks landed Hasselbeck.

For all the striking circumstantial parallels, three differences give Flynn an opportunity to enjoy early success, something that eluded Hasselbeck and nearly derailed his career with the team. All three factors are a direct reflection of Carroll and, to an extent, Schneider:

  • Realistic expectations: Carroll has tempered expectations by declaring publicly that Flynn must compete for the job with Tarvaris Jackson. Holmgren anointed Hasselbeck, went on about the importance of the position, and suggested his own job security hinged on his new quarterback's performance. There's always pressure on quarterbacks, but Carroll isn't adding to the pressure on Flynn by suggesting he's their savior.
  • Support system: Carroll and Schneider are further along rebuilding the roster, particularly on defense, than was Holmgren in 2001. This allows the current Seahawks to better support all their quarterbacks. This was by design and carried risk when the team opted to use its 2011 first-round choice for guard James Carpenter instead of quarterback Andy Dalton, figuring the line needed reinforcing before welcoming a young passer.
    .
    But the upside is that Carroll and Schneider have put together the NFL's youngest defense, one that ranked ninth last season and should only improve. When Hasselbeck arrived in 2001, Holmgren was patching the NFL's last-ranked defense with veterans John Randle, Chad Eaton, Marcus Robertson and Levon Kirkland. There wasn't a young talent base to build around on that side of the ball.
    .
    "Matt (Flynn) comes in at a time when our sights are set on a strong running game, a young offensive line we're excited about with depth, an attitude that plays off the defense-and-special-teams-style that we play, and that we all can feel," Carroll said Monday.
  • Overall philosophy. Carroll wants to win with a strong defense and running game, whereas Holmgren was all about the quarterback.
    "We have never asked the quarterback to carry the whole show," Carroll said. "We want him to be part of this offense and part of this football team, and be the point guard and spread the ball around."

Questions remain regarding the current Seahawks' ability to develop a quarterback for the long term. That was Holmgren's strength, and one reason Hasselbeck eventually developed into a Pro Bowl player.

The NFL has become more of a passing league since then, opening for debate whether Carroll's philosophy is best for the current NFL landscape.

Those are subjects for another day. Improving the short-term chances for Flynn has to be the top priority. The Seahawks have done that. The rest is up to Flynn.

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