In the spring of 2012, the Seattle Seahawks were coming off consecutive 7-9 seasons under head coach Pete Carroll and were looking for something to take them to the next level.
They thought they found it in free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn, signing him to a three-year, $26 million deal.
The Green Bay Packers’ career backup became a hot commodity when he started the final regular-season game in 2011 in place of Aaron Rodgers — the Packers were 14-1 and had sewn up home-field advantage in the playoffs. Flynn threw for 480 yards and a team-record six touchdowns in a 45-41 victory over the Lions.
The 27-year-old clipboard caddy with two career starts was suddenly the best quarterback available in a thin market. The Seahawks felt Flynn gave them a better chance over incumbent starter Tavaris Jackson.
But then something funny happened on the way to Century Link Field.
The Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson, a transfer quarterback out of Wisconsin, with the 75th pick in the third round. After giving up on baseball, the 5-11 Wilson decided to try his luck with a bigger ball. Good career move.
Flynn started the first and second games of the preseason for the Seahawks in 2012 and played OK, but Wilson was outstanding in relief.
Even though the Seahawks had committed a ton of money to Flynn, GM John Schneider and Carroll went into training camp with an open mind.
With Flynn nursing a sore elbow, the Seahawks started Wilson in the preseason dress-rehearsal. The rookie connected on 13-of-19 passes for 185 yards and two TDs in a 44-14 victory over the Chiefs. Flynn, who would make as much in one game as Wilson made for the entire season, never got off the sideline.
Wilson has started every game for the Seahawks since, including consecutive Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014.
When asked about taking the inexperienced Wilson over the high-priced free agent at the time, Carroll said: “The right thing is to get the best players out there.”
Which brings us to the Bears.
When GM Ryan Pace signed free agent Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal with $19 million guaranteed, it signaled the end of the Jay Cutler era.
Pace was handing the keys of mediocrity over to a 27-year-old backup who had taken 11 snaps since 2014. Still, Pace exclaimed: “Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback and we’re fired up about that.”
Pace added: “He’s got all the traits that you want in a quarterback — height, arm strength, accuracy, the ability to quickly process. So I don’t know how high the ceiling is. I’m just glad we have him in the mix as our starting quarterback to compete and get better.”
But in April, Pace fell in love with another quarterback. In a stunning move, fully lambasted by social media and NFL experts alike, Pace traded up to the second pick of the NFL Draft to take Mitch Trubisky, an untested quarterback with just 13 starts at North Carolina.
Pace quickly calmed the masses, though, and assured everyone that Glennon was still the Bears’ guy. Trubisky would be brought along slowly and likely wouldn’t see the field this regular season. Just to be doubly sure, they signed veteran Mark Sanchez to be their No. 2.
Then something funny happened at Soldier Field.
On the night of the first preseason game against the Denver Broncos, Glennon laid an egg — literally — throwing a pick-6 and completing just two of eight passes for 20 yards and a 0.0 passer rating. Trubisky on the other hand, led the Bears on three scoring drives, going 18 of 25 for 166 yards and a TD with a 103.1 passer rating. Trubisky brought excitement to Beardom that hadn’t been seen since Devin Hester crossed the goal line in the Super Bowl in 2007.
An unwavering Pace, stuck to his gameplan, telling the Sun-Times: “There’s a lot of things that go into that other than just one player. [But] there’s a lot of evidence that supports that we really like him as a starting quarterback, Mike Glennon. I want to convey that support as we’re talking here. Again, [it’s] one preseason game, and he’s going to respond well from that.”
Pace is right. One preseason game is a very small sample size. But what if Trubisky comes back with another solid performance? Should money and not going back on your word trump football smarts?
Interestingly, many of the same experts and fans who skewered Pace for trading up and drafting Trubisky are now imploring him to play the rookie. It’s still uncertain how the Bears’ dilemma is going to play out, but so far the similarities to the Wilson-Flynn situation are certainly there.
Oh, and one more note about the Trubisky-Wilson connection. Wilson began his college football career at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin his final year and leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Wilson started three years for the Wolfpack, all the while pursuing a pro baseball career. But the Wolfpack had an up-and-coming junior quarterback that had been pushing Wilson. Miffed over Wilson’s baseball pursuits, coach Tom O’Brien told Wilson April 27, 2011, that he was no longer the starting QB. The new starter: Mike Glennon.