Ron Jaworski raised some eyebrows on Tuesday when he ranked Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Jaws' reason being that Flynn doesn't have good arm strength. And since Flynn has started just two games in the NFL, there isn't a lot of tape to prove that opinion to be decidedly false.
There have been a lot of quarterbacks who have had success in this league who didn't have a lot of arm strength or who didn't have a lot of tape to prove their worth. The first quarterback who comes to mind for Raiders fans in former NFL MVP Rich Gannon who toiled as a career backup for 11 NFL seasons on three different teams before the Raiders gave him his first real shot.
For that reason, a lot of people draw comparisons between Flynn and Gannon. Also for that reason, Gannon is just the person to ask for an opinion on the Raiders new quarterback.
"The thing that's tough about Matt Flynn's situation is that he hasn't played a lot of football," said Gannon. "It's tough to evaluate a guy you've not seen play. I've seen more of Matt Flynn probably than anybody. I did Packers preseason games Matt's first four years, I obviously watched the Patriots game where he started, I watched the Detroit Lions game he started a couple years ago and played really well, threw six touchdowns. I've got a good sense of who this guy is. I think from Jaws' perspective... first of all, the fact that he has Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker rated ahead of Matt Flynn I think is ridiculous.
"(There's) a lot to like about Matt Flynn. Now, that being said, I don't think he's ever gonna be an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady in terms of his arm strength or his ability to make those type of throws, but I wasn't either. I was able to get by and participate and do the little things well.
"I wasn't known for having a cannon for an arm, but if you have great anticipation, the ball comes out quick, you understand the system... that's one of the things that helps Matt is he's been in the system, he's got some background here. He ran a very similar system in Green Bay and in Seattle."
Flynn doesn't just remind Gannon of himself, there was another quarterback who Gannon sees in Flynn.
"It's about anticipation," Gannon continued. "I'll give you a great example; Chad Pennington, who had some really great years in New York with the Jets and just good years in Miami. In terms of quarterbacks throwing the football, he had probably the worst arm I've ever seen and he had some real limitations and yet he had one of the highest completion percentages in the history of football. Very accurate, could anticipate, very smart, heady guy, he'd get the ball out on time, those types of things. That's who Matt has to be."
It may be hard for most to remember how respected Chad Pennington was as an NFL quarterback because he struggled with injuries much of his career. But he completed 66% of his passes over 11 seasons in the NFL. He was healthy at least 13 games just four times in his career and led his teams to the playoffs every single one of those years. That's quite a compliment to Flynn to be compared to a player like that. Pennington won games and that's what Flynn must do. Rich Gannon knows this better than most people.
"I just think establishing himself as the guy, as the starter. He's gotta come in and earn the team's respect." Said Gannon. "It's all about what you do on the football field and what type of impact you can make. They wanna see your work ethic. Ultimately what it boils down to is your ability to win football games, your ability to put the team in the position late in games with a chance to win. That's gonna be critical for Matt."
If Flynn can gain the team's respect and show them he can put them in a position to win, at that point, his success is ultimately in their hands. This is a team sport, after all. There are a lot of factors in a quarterback being successful. Even though the quarterback is key, Flynn needs his teammates to play well for him. In that regard, Gannon knows the Raiders have a lot of questions yet to be answered.
"The key for Matt is gonna be how well the team plays around him. Are they gonna get better between now and the season at tight end and wide receiver? Is Darren McFadden gonna be able to play all 16 games and have a really productive season? How's the offensive line gonna gel? What about the new offensive coordinator and how is that all gonna work out? So, all these things are gonna factor into how well Matt plays in his first year in Oakland."
But in the end, success is not what Jaworski was talking about. He said plainly that Flynn is the worst starting quarterback in the NFL based solely on Flynn's lack of talent. And in that regard, Gannon spoke plainly.
"Ron Jaworski's one guy. He's evaluating his position. I think it's very difficult to evaluate Matt only from the standpoint that we don't have a ton of film on him. But to say he's the 32nd ranked quarterback in the NFL I think is a little ridiculous."
It's worth noting the Jaworski was given his untimely release from his duties on Monday Night Football due to reported disagreements with co-host, Jon Gruden, who, not coincidentally was the coach who revived Rich Gannon's career in Oakland. Gannon and Gruden share philosophies that have proven successful. Jaworski doesn't share that philosophy.
And since Gannon (4 Pro Bowls, 2 All Pro, 1 NFL MVP, 1 Super Bowl loss to Gruden's Bucs) and Gruden (5 trips to the playoffs, 1 Super Bowl win) had more success in a four-year span (1999-2002) than Jaworski (1 Pro Bowl, 1 Super Bowl loss to the Raiders) had in his entire 15-year career, I think I'm gonna go with the Gannon/Gruden philosophy on this one.