ALAMEDA – The Oakland Raiders traded a 2014 fifth-round pick and a 2015 conditional late-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for 27-year old Matt Flynn on April 1. He is the Raiders’ placeholder at quarterback until Tyler Wilson, whom the Raiders drafted four weeks later in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, takes Flynn’s job.
“Matt’s our starting quarterback as we go forward right now,” Raiders’ head coach Dennis Allen said Tuesday afternoon, and then he added, “until the competition dictates otherwise.”
Wilson is the competition, and Tuesday during the Raiders’ morning OTA session, he was dictating otherwise.
He was the best passer on the field, and it wasn’t close. He was slinging the ball with a tight spiral and hitting receivers in stride.
Many draft experts considered Wilson a first-round prospect after his junior season at the University of Arkansas, and a better prospect than quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whom the Miami Dolphins drafted with the eighth pick in the 2012 draft.
Wilson decided to return to school for his senior season, but his team was decimated by injuries and his head coach, Bobby Petrino, was fired months before the season started for having an affair with a 25-year-old female student. Total program dysfunction followed.
Despite that, Wilson still displayed the attributes that bode well for success in the NFL – arm strength, accuracy, pocket presence, mobility, toughness, intelligence and leadership. And he passed for 3,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and a 143.8 passer rating.
At the Raiders’ OTA, almost every pass he threw was on the money. His second pass of team drills – 11-on-11’s – was a perfect throw deep down the middle of the field to a receiver running a post route. Touchdown.
But Flynn was not sharp. His arm is not particularly strong, and he was not particularly accurate Tuesday morning, either. He doesn’t sling the ball like Wilson. Flynn seems to steer it, or you could say he aims it. He’s pretty accurate on short passes, but he’s inconsistent on the intermediate and deep throws.
On the first play of team drills, Flynn threw a pass 10 feet over Denarius Moore’s head. Moore ran a deep corner route, and when he saw where the pass was going, he stopped sprinting and watched the ball sail out of bounds like a left fielder staring at an upper-deck home run.
On the very next play, Flynn threw a back-shoulder wobbler to a slot receiver running down the middle of the field. The wobbler landed low and outside, in the vicinity of the receiver’s feet.
Even though Wilson played better than Flynn, Wilson probably won’t take Flynn’s job this offseason, although if that were to happen, it’s not as outlandish as you’d think. Flynn lost the Seattle job last summer in training camp to another rookie, another guy named Wilson.
Flynn has the advantage because he’s been in the league for five seasons and he’s had exposure to NFL defenses and NFL terminology. Wilson has not.
On the other hand, Wilson has a more recent playing history than Flynn. Wilson started 24 games the past two seasons at Arkansas. Flynn has started two games in his entire five-year NFL career – one game in 2010, and one game in 2011. You can watch those starts on YouTube over and over to figure out what Flynn might do in 2013, but those starts came two-to-three seasons ago, and two-to-three seasons is an eon in the NFL.
Flynn’s primary job in the NFL has been running the Packers’ and Seahawks’ scout teams in practice. That was his primary job in college as well – he backed up JaMarcus Russell for three years at LSU.
If Flynn and the Raiders are not hitting it out of the park after the first seven or eight games, don’t be surprised if the Raiders insert Wilson into the lineup and just let him play. If they are going to lose – and the Raiders probably are going to lose a lot because they’re a rebuilding team – they might as well play the guys who are their future and let them gain experience.
Wilson will not gain experience sitting on the bench watching the Raiders and Flynn lose. It’s better if the Raiders lose with Wilson at quarterback. If they wait until next season to play Wilson, he’ll still have a learning curve. Better to get it over with sooner rather than later.
What’s the difference between winning five games with Flynn or four games with Wilson?
Answer: Flynn delays the rebuilding process. Wilson speeds it up. Wilson is the future, and Flynn is not.
Grant Cohn writes two sports columns per week for the Press Democrat’s website. He also writes the “Inside the 49ers” blog. Follow him on Twitter @grantcohn.