Photo credit: Mike Roemer/Associated Press
The Green Bay Packers finished their preseason campaign with a 34-14 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The fourth preseason game is not only meaningless in the win/loss column, it also does not feature any starters seeing any significant playing time. It’s simply a game that gives the coaching staff one last chance to finalize the depth chart and evaluate players who may have a shot to make the roster.
Since the fourth preseason game is base vanilla for strictly evaluative purposes, rather than breaking down the specific Xs and Os of plays, I thought we’d evaluate the pretty hot competition for the backup quarterback between Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien.
In the box score, Tolzien slightly outperformed Flynn by going 12/18 for 139 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a rating of 126.9; Flynn’s numbers were 7/15 for 102 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a rating of 108.9.
Both sets of stats were impressive, but one quarterback looks much better on film, and the film never lies. In fact, in my opinion, the quarterback competition isn’t as close as many may want to believe.
Between them, they thew 33 passes that officially counted in the box score. Below, I’ll look at eight that really stuck out in my mind when I watched the game.
It’s no secret that Flynn has an average arm at best. He has accuracy in the short passing game, and typical routes in the Flynn play calling package involve the stop/comeback/curl tree. These are high percentage throws and don’t require a cannon arm.
In the GIF below, you can see Flynn complete a comeback route for about 12 yards. That route is one of his favorites because it doesn’t require him to zip and squeeze the ball into a tight space.
Flynn can complete the ball over the middle, but it lacks some velocity, which could be problem if the defensive coverage is tight. Even though the pass in the GIF below results in a touchdown, the throw to the slot receiver on the post route wasn’t overly authoritative and was possible because the wide receiver was left uncovered.
In contrast, Scott Tolzien has a much livelier arm and can squeeze the ball quickly into tighter coverage. See the GIF below and notice the increased velocity to the slot receiver, who was also running a post route. The ball was driven to the receiver before the safety, who was in good position, could drive downhill to break up the pass.
In the GIF below, Tolzien squeezes the ball into tight coverage on a skinny post for a touchdown. That window wasn’t open very long, and Tolzien let it rip and threaded the needle. I believe that Flynn lacks both the arm strength and the confidence that Tolzien has to sling the ball in there. Also, notice how quickly Tolzien is able to release the ball. His ability to set his feet and fire the ball is noticeably quicker than Flynn.
Even though the Packers run a “west coast” offense, it has really evolved over the years, taking advantage of the strong arms of both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers to drive the ball deep down field.
The deep ball, especially outside of the numbers, is one of Flynn’s greatest weaknesses. In the GIF below, he severely underthrows the receiver on a go route. While the underthrow did result in a pass interference call, the play should have resulted in a touchdown if the ball was thrown deeper with more velocity.
The GIF below shows a similar situation. Flynn struggles to deliver the ball outside the numbers in intermediate to deep routes. He was pressured, but still had time to set his feet. If the pass rusher did influence the throw, it’s only because Flynn has a slower release than Tolzien. Here, he threw a very poor ball.
In the next two GIFs below, Flynn and Tolzien are throwing to receivers running similar deep go routes. In the first play, Flynn fails to give his receiver an accurate ball with enough space on the sideline to haul it in.
In contrast, Tolzien was much accurate with his go route. He hit his receiver in stride with plenty of space on the sideline for him to run under the ball.
As of this posting, the Packers kept both Flynn and Tolzien on the 53-man roster, signifying the first time since 2008 that they’ve carried three quarterbacks on the roster.
It’s no surprise, really, considering the disaster the backup quarterbacks position was at times last season. Both are competent players and can be counted upon to win games if needed (let’s hope it’s never needed). Last year, Flynn went 2-2-1 as Aaron Rodgers’ replacement. So, he can win games.
However, Tolzien is the better player. He has the stronger arm, is more accurate, and has more confidence in his throws when compared to Flynn.
Every quarterback in the NFL can complete the short ball. The good ones can squeeze it into tight coverage and also complete the deep ball.
Tolzien has the higher upside, whereas Flynn has leveled off and is a known commodity by now. If I was in charge of the Packers roster, Tolzien would be my #2.
I believe the GIFs embedded above to be fair use under the premise of being short clips of the original broadcast that are transformative for news reporting, commentary, critique, illustration, and teaching purposes.——————