Since the moment Joe Philbin became the Dolphins’ new head coach, the conclusion of Matt Flynn’s flirtation with the open market seemed more than just inevitable. It felt like a formality.
We assumed Flynn would head to Miami, where his attempt to be more Matt Schaub than Kevin Kolb as he went from backup to starter would be guided by his former offensive coordinator at Green Bay. Familiarity often breeds success, and the connection between Flynn and Philbin combined with Miami’s desperation to restore respect at the quarterback position made the Dolphins an obvious landing spot.
But alas, there is no obvious in the NFL in mid March, a time when smoke screens and intentionally leaked rumors create a cauldron of speculation that eventually shreds our assumptions. The Dolphins gradually faded from the Peyton Manning race, and when Flynn met with the Seahawks before visiting with Philbin, the depth of their Green Bay connection suddenly seemed much more shallow.
Now it’s non-existent, and Flynn has ended Miami’s attempt to grasp at straws that can play quarterback at an elite level. Flynn has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Seahawks worth $26 million, with $10 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
In his report, NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora quite generously writes that Flynn will compete with Tarvaris Jackson to be Seattle’s No. 1 quarterback. Oh Jason, you’re so nice.
Flynn will undoubtedly become Pete Carroll’s new quarterback, but the presence of Jackson right behind him provides the Seahawks with much needed insurance and security. Jackson was signed last summer merely as a space filler in Seattle until a better solution was found through either the draft or free agency.
Now that solution has a name, but in the second half of 2011 Jackson still showed that when he’s supported by Marshawn Lynch’s Skittles-powered running, he’s more than capable of doing his best Alex Smith impression and being an efficient game manager. Seattle won five of their last eight games to become one of the league’s most promising teams as 2011 ended, and we began to assess which non-playoff teams had the most hope for a quick turnaround in 2012. Jackson may have looked shaky in the pocket at times with his 14 interceptions, but only four of those picks came over that eight-game stretch to close out the season.
Flynn inherits an offense that still has Lynch as the central figure, and he’ll thrive even more with a legitimate passing threat in the pocket. Two of Seattle’s primary offseason acquisitions last August were wasted investments due to the lack of a reliable and consistent passer.
Sidney Rice had an injury-plagued season and only appeared in nine games, but when healthy he still averaged just 53.7 yards per game. Tight end Zach Miller was worse, and a year after scoring five times and finishing with 685 receiving yards for the Raiders, he had just 233 yards in Seattle, averaging just 15.5 per game. Miller and Rice will make a combined $13 million next year, which was dead money with Jackson still pretending to be anything more than a very reliable backup.
As for Miami, the football town that Don Shula built is a place where quarterbacks evidently have no desire to embarrass themselves. The franchise is doing a good job of that on its own.
Brandon Marshall was jettisoned by the Dolphins because he’s Brandon Marshall, a lunatic who happens to be very skilled at running, jumping, and catching a football. But although the Dolphins were justifiably tired of dealing with his personality, they were also surely aware that a wide receiver depth chart led by Brian Hartline and Davone Bess isn’t exactly a strong selling point.
Chad Henne was allowed to walk, and now the desperation to find an elite QB to play for a team that’s never truly replaced Dan Marino is beyond a fever pitch. The pitch of the QB siren in South Beach can only be heard by dogs.
A team that was hotly pursuing Manning until only a few days ago has now missed out on the top two most highly-coveted arms at the position, and their consolation prize could be Alex Smith, who visited with the Dolphins’ brass this morning.
Smith dramatically raised his value with his 2011 season in San Francisco that nearly ended in a trip to Indianpolis to play in the Super Bowl (thanks, Kyle Williams). He threw just five interceptions, but he also had just two games in which he threw for over 250 yards. Smith’s resurrection was a product of Jim Harbaugh’s brilliance, an imposing defense that continually put him a prime position for success, and a running game that minimized the importance of the quarterback and anything that resembled a downfield threat.
Miami can try to imitate that approach, but their personnel offensively and defensively isn’t nearly the same, and eventually Smith will have to sit in the pocket and continually win football games. That’s a doomed strategy, and there are five years worth of Smith game film prior to 2011 to prove it.