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Seahawks banking that Flynn proves more legit than Whitehurst

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

The Seahawks have more inside info on Matt Flynn than they had on Charlie Whitehurst. (Getty Images)  
The Seahawks have more inside info on Matt Flynn than they had on Charlie Whitehurst. (Getty Images)  

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Flynn will be the next starting quarterback in Seattle, and maybe he makes them a playoff team again and maybe he doesn't. All I know is that the Seahawks haven't had a great track record in the quarterback department lately, so let's cut to the obvious question: What makes the Seahawks so sure Matt Flynn isn't the next Charlie Whitehurst?

Whitehurst was the first quarterback Pete Carroll acquired after assuming the head-coaching job two years ago, and he was a major disappointment -- fizzling so badly that the club let him walk this offseason, with Whitehurst re-joining San Diego, the club that traded him to Seattle.

Whitehurst had virtually no resume, other than preseason games, when Seattle dealt for him. Flynn does, but his pro background isn't extensive. He started twice for Green Bay, winning once -- an impressive 480-yard, six-touchdown performance in last year's regular-season finale vs. Detroit. For that reason, some consider him a gamble. Carroll doesn't, and the reason is his general manager.

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That would be John Schneider, who joined Carroll after working in Green Bay. He was there when the Packers drafted Flynn, and he was there to watch him train, work out and play in preseason games. Basically, he knows the guy and knows what he can do. So what the Seahawks didn't ... or couldn't ... find on videotape he could supply for them.

And he sold them on their new quarterback as much as Flynn sold himself.

"There's not a big body of work to go from," said Carroll at Wednesday's owners' meetings, "so we had to read into it. We thought that because of John's background we knew the really important issues, like work ethic, mentality, character and competitiveness. Those things we had in hand, and those things are harder to evaluate sometimes.

"I think the gamble, the uncertainties, what you don't know, we had a good sense of it. We banked on that. John knows players, and he understands what he's looking for. And he compared the intangibles (of Flynn) to Aaron (Rodgers)."

Nevertheless, there's a risk here, and Carroll understands it. But he also understands that Flynn comes from an offense that is similar to what he will run in Seattle, and he understands that Flynn comes from a background where he quarterbacked one of the best teams in college football and where he served under one of the best quarterbacks in the pro game. Most important, he understands that Flynn is an improvement on last year's starter, Tarvaris Jackson.

Jackson was the Seahawks' free-agent acquisition a year ago, and while he didn't play all that badly in 2011, he wasn't a difference maker. He was simply a bridge to the next guy, who happens to be Flynn. Jackson was the league's 21st-ranked passer, with nearly as many interceptions (13) as touchdowns (14), and the Seahawks were the league's 22nd-ranked passing attack. It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that those numbers must improve for Seattle to gain on the rest of the NFC West.

According to Carroll, Jackson is still the starter -- with training camp an "open competition" for him and Flynn. But whom are we kidding here: You don't go out and spend $26 million on a free agent to sit him on the bench.

"He's not going to be handed the keys to the kingdom," said Carroll. "It's Tarvaris' job right now, and then here comes Matt. After saying that, it's my job to put (Flynn) in position to show what he can do."

What he can do is resuscitate an organization that hasn't had a winning season since 2007 when the Seahawks and Matt Hasselbeck were the best team in the NFC West, winning their fourth straight division title. They're not the best now, but they could be. They have a promising young defense, a healthy offensive line, a solid running back and maybe, just maybe, a quarterback who can back off defenders.

That's if Matt Flynn is not Charlie Whitehurst.

"I think the familiarity and continuity are much different," said Carroll. "And the background knowledge from the inside out is maybe what makes us more enthused because John knew (Flynn) so well. We knew Charlie from the outside and from his workouts, but John did have insights (on Flynn). We just have more familiarity and a better sense of it."

Good. Because if Seattle's Matt Flynn is as good as Green Bay's Matt Flynn, the Seahawks just solved a lingering problem.


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