Reporting David Elfin
As the saying goes, one door closes and another opens. A little over a week after USC’s Matt Barkley took a top quarterback off the draft board with his somewhat surprising decision to stay in school, another viable option for the 2012 Redskins became apparent with the unreal performance by Green Bay backup Matt Flynn.
On a chilly and windy afternoon in Lambeau Field against a Detroit team trying to avoid a first-round playoff visit to New Orleans, Flynn knocked Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers from the Packers’ records books with 480 yards and six touchdowns in Sunday’s wild 45-41 victory over the Lions.
Flynn had been almost as good in his only previous start, connecting on 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three scores in a near-upset of powerful New England last year.
The 26-year-old Texan has a career passer rating of 92.8, miles ahead of the 71.4 of 31-year-old Redskins’ incumbent Rex Grossman. The latter’s 72.4 mark this season was the lowest by a Washington regular since rookie Patrick Ramsey was the No. 1 quarterback in 2002 in coach Steve Spurrier’s lack of pass protection scheme.
With Indianapolis and Cleveland (which has two first-rounders) choosing ahead of Washington’s sixth overall selection in April’s draft and likely coveting hot prospects Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the Redskins might decide that Flynn is a better choice than having to surrender a bunch of picks to land a bonafide alternative to re-signing turnover machine Grossman (20 interceptions, five fumbles) and letting him start again.
Flynn, a seventh-rounder out of LSU in 2008, heads into free agency as a hot commodity. After all, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Rodgers all rocketed from benchwarmer status in Green Bay to championship games and Pro Bowls (Super Bowls in the case of the latter duo).
What’s more, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has been down this road before with success. He was Houston’s quarterbacks coach in 2007 when the Texans moved down two spots in the first round and gave Atlanta a pair of second-rounders for Matt Schaub, who had sat behind Michael Vick and started just two games in three years for the Falcons (the second of which, coincidentally, was a narrow loss to the Patriots in which the former Virginia standout threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns).
In his third year as the Texans’ starter, Schaub directed them to their first winning record in their eight seasons to that point while leading the league in passing yards and being named the Pro Bowl MVP.
Of course, just because one backup named Matt worked out well doesn’t mean another will. But look at the other free agent quarterbacks beyond Drew Brees and Alex Smith, whom New Orleans and San Francisco, respectively, surely won’t let test the market.
Jason Campbell won’t want to play for the Shanahans after they traded him without giving him a shot. Kyle Orton was benched in Chicago for Grossman, for crying out loud. Hall of Fame lock Peyton Manning wouldn’t want to play behind Washington’s shaky offensive line even if he wasn’t going to be 37 and trying to come back from neck surgery which ended his 2011 season before it began. And those are the top free agent choices.
If I’m the Redskins, my first option is still to do whatever’s necessary to trade up with St. Louis to get Griffin, the dual threat Heisman Trophy winner. Trouble is that free agency opens on March 13, more than a month before the draft. In the likely event that they haven’t yet acquired that No. 2 overall selection by then, they should sign Flynn. And if they manage to wind up with Griffin, too, one of the new quarterbacks could be dealt for help at other positions. In any event, one of these guys should be Washington’s starter in 2012.
The Redskins haven’t had the right man at the most important position since brash young owner Dan Snyder mysteriously soured on Brad Johnson after the 1999 NFC East title season. A dozen seasons have passed since and Washington still hasn’t won the division again while only matching Johnson’s one playoff victory.
It’s way past time to get a franchise quarterback in burgundy and gold. Go get him, Shanahans.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.