It’s always sort of like taking a new car out for a test ride when a new quarterback takes the field. It always helps to have done a little homework on the various options and differences with that new car prior to setting out for the dealership. Many fans have only seen short snippets of the 3 Seahawks’ QBs on the evening news, but have read a good deal about them. So, in this first pre-season game what are the fans going to be looking for versus what Pete Carroll might focus on regarding the play of his QB? Is it possible for Matt Flynn to have a great game but be a disappointment to his coaches? Might what looks like a great play to fans be a “fail” to his coaches? For example, what if Flynn misses all his reads when he comes up behind center, scrambles for his life, and miraculously finds an open receiver for a touchdown? Is that a good play? Or will coaches give him bad marks for missing the reads and failing to audible out of the play?
On the other hand here are some of the things Flynn might do which could appear as “bad” plays to fans that Pete Carroll will absolutely love;
1. Flynn drops back to pass, can’t find a receiver and throws the ball away. That might be marked as a positive on the part of the QB for not throwing a risky pass into coverage and getting intercepted, unless film later shows there was an open receiver.
2. Flynn comes to the line, looks over the defense and calls a time-out. Rather than going ahead with a play that will go nowhere, he can go talk it over with coaches and discuss the look the defense was giving him and plan an appropriate audible for the next time that look comes up.
3. Flynn drops back to pass, and drops to the turf for an easy sack. Some of the worst game-changing QB mistakes come on plays where the QB tries to make something out of nothing. If the defense is getting the better of Flynn’s protection, it’s a veteran move to go down and live to throw another play. Maybe the coaches can change the protection to stop the problem with their pass rush or call a play that could take advantage of over-aggressive defenses.
Of course, we would all like to see Matt Flynn come out and tear up the opposing defense. Here’s what I’m going to be watching for in the seconds between the drop back and the release of the ball. If Flynn does these things well, he could very well avoid the mistakes new quarterbacks make that turn the game against them.
1. Quick decision making. I hope to see Flynn’s head moving around as he checks off his first, second, and third options instead of locking in on one receiver.
2. If the first option is open, I will be looking for NO hesitation before the throw. We had a whole year of that with T-Jack and we all know what that looks like. So do defenses, and they’re going to exploit any hesitation.
3. Sensing pressure. This is a critical skill for any QB. Flynn seemed to have a great feel for the pocket in Green Bay. If he is to be successful, he needs to feel that pressure and take a few steps away from the pressure as he’s looking for his receivers to open up.
1. I’ll be watching the huddle. You can see body language by both the QB and the other players in the huddle as the play is being called. Also the break and how the team approaches the line can indicate how players feel about how things are going.
2. When a play is over, whether it’s successful or not, I’ll be watching for players attitudes when they come back to the huddle. Are they frustrated? Are they “pumped and jacked” as Pete Carroll likes to see them? Are they communicating positively or in an exasperated way?
3. What’s happening on the sidelines when Flynn is talking to coaches? Is it relaxed, tense, animated?
4. I want to see Flynn congratulate his receivers when they make a play, but also maybe have a short conversation to get things straight after an incompletion. This is key to Flynn building his leadership with the team.
1. Quick decision making.
2. Avoiding the forced throw.
3. “Touch” on the pass.
4. Throwing high to the corner or back of the end zone where only the receiver can make the play.
5. Adapting to the short field with more compact coverages.
So, how will this “test drive” go for Flynn and what will the implications be? Keeping in mind this is the first game and defenses are almost always ahead of offenses this early in the pre-season, I’m thinking it could be pretty ugly for our new QB in a new system on a new team. But if it is, it’s possible to be ugly in a positive way. Flynn could have a good game with a bad result and still come out on top of the QB battle as long as his decisions are sound.
I’ll be watching all these things and taking notes for both QBs during both halves of the game so I can report back next week on what I saw. On the other hand, maybe I’ll just grab a bowl of nachos and a 6 pack and yell at the TV for two and a half hours, scare my dogs, and make a general nuisance of myself to my family. Ahhh yesssss! Football season is FINALLY HERE!