Had Manning remained with the Indianapolis Colts or retired, Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn would have been the top free agent quarterback available. Now, it makes sense for any team in the market for a starter to consider Manning first. And if you're rooting for Flynn to find a landing place that can support his burgeoning career, there are some places to hope Manning doesn't go.
I don't want to shortchange Flynn's potential, but rare is the player who can rise above an otherwise limited infrastructure. Flynn's best chance for success is to sign with a team that offers a smooth schematic transition, a relatively stable coaching staff and a fair amount of playmakers around him.
That's why the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks seems like the most comfortable fits. They are also among the early speculative destinations for Manning. So if I'm Flynn, I'm hoping Manning signs with the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins or perhaps the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving the Dolphins, Seahawks and maybe the Cleveland Browns to bid for me, er, Flynn.
With the Dolphins, Flynn would play for former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and in the West Coast scheme of another coach with Packers ties, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. He would have Brandon Marshall as a legitimate No. 1 receiver, a tailback in Reggie Bush who had a strong finish to the 2011 season and one of the NFL's best left tackles in Jake Long.
Flynn would also be in a West Coast scheme if he signed with the Seahawks, who are coordinated by former Packers and Vikings assistant Darrell Bevell. He would have a top-flight running back in Marshawn Lynch, a presumably healthy No. 1 receiver in Sidney Rice and an upgraded offensive line.
We've heard wildly disparate views on Flynn's ceiling. Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who has watched him practice for four years, said last month that "he's ready to be an NFL starter." ESPN.com contrarian KC Joyner, meanwhile, compared him this week to Scott Mitchell, who flopped when the Detroit Lions signed him as their starter in 1993.
In the end, I think we can all agree that Flynn stands a better chance of success if he signs with, say, the Seahawks or Dolphins than if he ends up with the Browns, whose offense remains in development, or the always-chaotic Redskins. Manning can't close all the doors, but the best-case scenario for Flynn is if he leaves the right ones ones open.