RENTON, Wash. — When Matt Flynn came to visit the Seattle Seahawks, he wowed the staff with his personality and ability to understand offensive systems.
That still wasn't enough to completely satisfy the Seahawks considering how little playing time Flynn got backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. So Pete Carroll and crew handed Flynn some workout gear, took him into their indoor facility and put him through a lighthearted throwing session to make sure that what they saw on tape looked just as good in person.
"I was totally up for it and we had fun out there. It was real laid-back," Flynn said. "It wasn't a pressure cooker or anything like that. They kind of just wanted to see me in action I guess."
What the Seahawks saw was impressive enough for them to offer up a three-year deal for Flynn that was more appealing than other opportunities for one of the hottest free agents. That's even though Flynn was completely aware when he agreed to come to the Pacific Northwest that he was entering an open competition with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job.
Flynn agreed to his deal with the Seahawks on Sunday. During a conference call on Monday, Flynn said that when he visited late last week, the entire situation felt comfortable and it felt like the team was moving in the right direction.
It's the kind of answer Carroll likes hearing, especially after Seattle's main focus in the early stages of free agency was on bringing back its own players who were key in a late-season run that brought the Seahawks to the fringes of the NFC playoff chase. The Seahawks locked up running back Marshawn Lynch with a five-year deal worth up to $31 million, re-signed defensive end Red Bryant for a reported five years and brought back fullback Michael Robinson.
"Free agency for us was really to get our own guys," Carroll said. "That was the start of it. The fact we were able to do that ... this has been real important to us. Now we're trying to add."
Ultimately, it was time for the Seahawks to address an issue that's lingered since Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived before the 2010 season: the Seahawks' long-term future at quarterback. They whiffed on Charlie Whitehurst. The verdict is still out on Jackson after he played behind an inexperienced offensive line early in 2011 then played through a painful pectoral injury for more than half the season.
Maybe Flynn will be the hit — if he wins the job.
"We now have the opportunity to make this an open competition. Tarvaris is well ahead and he's the guy here working for us now," Carroll said. "I told Tarvaris when I talked with him yesterday that what we're doing with Matt is bringing him in here to compete for the job. And he's going to make everybody better and help our football team."
The other main suitor for Flynn appeared to be Miami, which makes his decision to come to Seattle a bit more surprising. In Miami there was familiarity as Flynn would have been reunited with former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, the Dolphins' new head coach. But Flynn also had a connection in Seattle with Schneider, who was in the Packers front office when Flynn was selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of LSU.
Flynn might have become a secondary option for the Seahawks had Carroll and staff been able to meet up with Peyton Manning in Denver during his whirlwind tour. But the meeting never came to fruition.
The idea of earning a job is nothing new to Flynn. He waited behind JaMarcus Russell at LSU for three seasons, then when Flynn got his shot to be the starter he led the Tigers to the BCS national championship. Carroll said the competition theme was emphasized throughout their conversations with Flynn and that Jackson has a significant advantage with a season in the Seahawks offense under his belt.
But unlike last offseason, which was mostly wiped out by the lockout, Flynn will get a full allotment of OTAs, minicamp and training camps to try to earn the job.
"I've always been a very competitive guy, a very confident guy and a guy who believes in working his tail off and doing the best he can," Flynn said. "I know I'm going to come in here and be in a competition and whatever happens, whatever my role is, I want to make Seattle a better football team. I think there is an opportunity there to have a very special football team."
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