Packers Should Keep Both Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien in 2014

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, 2014 Packers training camp, 2014 Packers preseason, Packers quarterbacks, Packers backup quarterback, Matt Flynn vs Scott Tolzien

It’s one the biggest questions that have hung over training camp for the Green Bay Packers: will Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien backup Aaron Rodgers in 2014?

With the preseason half complete, the answer is becoming clearer. The Packers need to keep both.

Flynn entered camp as the clear front runner after he came in last season for Tolzien while Rodgers was recovering from a fractured collarbone. Flynn took over mid-game for Tolzien and led the Packers to a comeback tie against the Minnesota Vikings that ultimately saved Green Bay’s season. He then went 2-2 as the starter in the following four games, keeping the Packers above water until Rodgers returned in Week 17.

Last season Flynn clearly had the advantage over Tolzien thanks to his previous knowledge of the Green Bay offense despite being signed after Tolzien. Tolzien showed some promise in 2013 including a stronger arm than Flynn. It wasn’t enough last season as he scrambled to learn the Packers’ playbook but it was clear he had potential and would greatly benefit from a full offseason and training camp under head coach Mike McCarthy’s tutelage.

As training camp got underway this year, all eyes were on Tolzien to see if he’d make the jumps many fans were hoping the former Wisconsin Badger would take. Flynn has always been a fan favorite but if anyone could unseat him in the court of public opinion, it would be the man Rodgers affectionately calls “Scoots.”

With the cutdowns to 75 then 53 players fast approaching, the answer is becoming clear: the Packers need to carry three quarterbacks heading into the start of the regular season.

This would mark a shift for Green Bay, who has traditionally only kept two quarterbacks at the start of the regular season. After the circus that was last season’s search for a backup quarterback however, this move makes all too much sense. It shouldn’t even be a debate.

The fact that this is even under consideration is much more a reflection on Tolzien than it is on Flynn. Has the gap between the two closed? Absolutely. This is nowhere near the Graham Harrell/Vince Young/B.J. Coleman/Seneca Wallace gong show that happened in 2013. It might not be the ideal backup situation, but the Packers are light years ahead of where they were last season.

So with both quarterbacks presumably on the active roster, who will be number two and who will be number three on the depth chart? Well, that’s what the preseason is supposed to determine and after two games the nod still has to go to Flynn though Tolzien has again closed the gap.

Flynn’s experience still shines through as when he is in the lineup, the offense still seemed to respond better to him than they have with Tolzien. Against the Rams, he was able to get the team into the end zone though he only attempted three passes to Tolzien’s 15. However, struggling to get the ball in the end zone has been an issue for Tolzien dating back to last season. You can have the best arm in the world but it’s useless if the ball doesn’t get into the end zone.

In Tolzien’s defense, he was running for his life with the backup offensive line and also was sacked twice against the Tennessee Titans in the first preseason game. That’s not going to help a young quarterback’s confidence when he can’t step up in the pocket.

Keeping both quarterbacks at least for this season also allows Tolzien to continue to develop while keeping a proven veteran behind Rodgers should the unfortunate once again rear its ugly head again. Thanks to Tolzien’s stronger arm and younger age, he very well could be the long-term answer the Packers have been seeking at the backup quarterback position since Rodgers took over as starter in 2008.

He’s not there yet however, and that’s why the Packers need to keep Flynn around as well. Unless something drastic changes in the final two preseason games, look for “Flynnsanity” to prevail over “Scoots” and remain the number two quarterback at least for the early part of the season. Anything can happen once the regular season gets underway and if the injury bug strikes one position particularly hard, Green Bay might have to cut one of the two loose.

Rodgers needs his own version of Doug Pederson, the reliable veteran who served not only as Brett Favre’s primary backup for all those years but also as one of his best friends on the team. The relationship between Rodgers and Flynn is well known but the fact the 2011 NFL MVP gave Tolzien a nickname shows how he feels about him as well.

It’s been a fun battle to watch but it’s becoming obvious who won the backup quarterback derby this year: the Packers.

That’s music to any fan’s ears.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

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  • Archie

    Flynn did not play all that well last year. If he were cut, I doubt anyone picks him up. Tolzein is young with lot of upside and throws the ball with much more authority. He would be quickly claimed on waivers.

    It’s time to go with Tolzein as #2.

    Do you keep Flynn as #3? Do you like R Neal? How about D Goodson? Or J Elliott? Or Ryan Taylor? Or Chris Banjo? If you keep Flynn, one of these guys will be bumped. I understand the value of QB and it’s a tough call but I’d keep a young player with a high ceiling before I’d keep Flynn at #3.

    • John Willard

      Archie, you my friend, are right on the money with this one. We can’t be playing ‘the sky is falling’ with respect to whether Rodgers gets injured again or not.
      It actually would’ve worked out better in the draft if Rodgers didn’t come back and we lost out to the Bears for the division title. The main thing I care about each year is the Super Bowl.
      Keep Tolzien, jettison the weak-armed Flynn, with no upside, and keep an extra LB. I especially like the progression this year of Banjo,
      Bostick, Stoneburner, and Myles White. As far as Flynn, remember the Lions game last autumn? Enough said.

      • Since ’61

        I like the progression of Bostick as well. Although preseason is basically meaningless. Let’s hope he returns from his injury and we see him on the field this year. His injury has gone from nothing serious to he’ll miss a few weeks. We’ve seen this pattern before and it hasn’t ended well in the past. As for Banjo, Stoneburner and M. White, they are meaningless performances against 3rd string opposition in the pre-season. I have nothing against them surviving to ST, but beyond that they are marginal contributors at best, at this point. Go Pack! Thanks, Since ’61

  • aaronqb

    IMO, both Flynn and Tolzein are capable #2s and there are a lot of teams that lack a quality #2 (like the 49ers). There may very well be a trade market for one of these guys. Try to trade one of them for a draft choice.

    • Archie

      Absolutely but such trades are usually hard to come by during this stage of the season. You could also argue to keep 3 QBs with the idea of trading one later in the season when the starters get knocked out for extended periods. But, I doubt you can get much more than a R7 pick for Flynn. Is that worth more than one of the youngsters I listed? Probably not.

      Pack has three young CBs to hold on to: D Goodson; Ryan White; and J Rolle. How can they do that with 3 QBs? Heck, even with 2 QBs they will be hard pressed to keep two of the three. That’s why I cut Bush, Banjo and Flynn in my 53.

      Somebody mentioned a late trade of Nick Perry to a 4-3 team was very likely. I think they are right. I also think Kuhn is on thin ice. He goes this year or next. Why not this year in exchange for R Neal? Lyerla may be their FB/HBack/TE of the future. It is too late for Guion. M Neal is looking very improved at pass rushing. Maybe he, Mulumba and Elliott are the only keepers at OLB behing CMIII/JP. They like Palmer on ST but he hasn’t shown much as pass rusher this year. I also like Gerrard Sheppard as WR6. The guy is great on ST and has great size/speed combo. All he has got to do is prove he can get open and catch the ball before the pre-season ends. I don’t see how you can expose Janis to waivers. He may be the answer at PR/KR too.

      • http://batman-news.com Robert Patreus

        I like the new Archie much better than the ‘Archie Bunker’ Archie…Trading Perry may be the right thing to do. He has not seemingly made that jump and maybe never will. I like keeping Mulumba, Elliott, and Palmer over keeping Perry.
        I see Janis being at the beginning of the season, our No. 5 WR and PR. He may end the season being our number three WR over Boykin and Adams.
        It seems to me they made the decision to keep Kuhn another year when they resigned him. I’m with you on this one, though I believe the probability of Kuhn being cut or traded is less than 10%.
        I may be in the minority, but, nonetheless I like keeping Banjo and Bush, partly because of their special teams value. Rolle has especially looked keen and may overtake Bush, but, I think they try and slide him onto the Practice Squad along with Goodson. White, unfortunately, looks to be a victim of the numbers game.
        Concerning WR, how can you not like the speed of Janis? He could develop into our future number one receiver! I believe they’ll be either keeping Stoneburner or a 6th WR instead of 3 QBs. If they opt for the 6th WR, it is still wide open between White, Harper, Dorsey, Sheppard, and Gillette. You may be correct and Sheppard may be this year’s Jarrett Boykin who comes in late and secures a slot on the 53.
        These last two games will be fascinating to see who makes the 53 and who gets placed on the Practice Squad.

    • http://batman-news.com Robert Patreus

      I have to disagree with you on this one, especially in regards to Matt Flynn. He has been cut and relatively quickly by Seattle, Oakland, and Buffalo. No trade value. As far as Tolzien, I agree with you. But, why let go of an up-and-comer (hopefully)? Keep Tolzien and cut Flynn. We only need two QBs on the 53.

      • Since ’61

        You can never have enough QBs, OLs, DLs and CBs with actual NFL regular season experience. If your team is not strong in those 4 areas you can’t win in the NFL. You may not agree with me but the highest paid salaries go to those 4 positions. And the reason is you can’t win without them. To be clear by DL, I mean pass rushing DLs which can include a front 7 pass rusher like CM3. Keep the QB position as strong and reliable as possible. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since’61

      • aaronqb

        You may be right. I said TRY to trade one of them. My sense is that SF and a few teams in the NFCN all could benefit from a better backup QB. I think Flynn and Tolzein are better than their backups. Whether they would be willing to part with a D6 or D7 is another matter.

  • Since ’61

    I prefer to keep both at least for this season. If AR misses any time we know that we have a backup to our backup regardless of who is the #2 and #3. What is the point of keeping some of these unproven LBs and CBs, or worrying about a 6th WR? QB is the most important position on the team and needs to be the strong point. Why keep some of these UFDAs based on meaningless preseason performances against other teams 3rd stringers and UFDAs. Some will be on the PS anyway. Chuck the others. We have an all universe QB with 2 backups that have real NFL experience in actual games that mean something. Flynn knows the offense well and Tolzien is developing well but not yet a proven player. Let him keep developing while Flynn is still around. A few weeks ago many bloggers here were all gaga over the fact that the Jets have Michael Vick and Matt Hasselback as backups. That’s good they can have them and their over valued contracts. Our QB position is solid, let’s keep it that way. Here’s an idea. Rather than release one of the backup QBs, let’s release Burnett and keep his spot for the 3rd QB. Based on last season in real games Burnett should have been released with Jennings and McMillan anyway. Only his salary has kept him around. Keeping unknown and untried players based on their preseason performance is about as pointless as the preseason itself. Our first team is ready to play. Let’s Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

  • Taryn Miller

    I’m all in on the trading of Nick Perry. :)