Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

Meet The New Rob

Does this analysis of a Buffalo quarterback sound familiar to anyone else?

“There’s one aspect of quarterbacking when you’re too jittery in the pocket — it’s another aspect to not have that clock and that’s what I see, over and over again … the failure to understand where the rush is coming from and how to get rid of that ball, and that clock is not in your head, so the interceptions and fumbles are really costly.”

No, that’s not a turn-of-the-century analysis of Rob Johnson (though it certainly would have been accurate, clumsy grammar aside). It’s former Eagles, Saints and Raiders cornerback Eric Allen discussing why Oakland ditched the newest name on the Bills depth chart, Matt Flynn, who heads into Sunday’s game at Miami as their presumptive backup quarterback.

The similarities do not end there. Like Johnson, Flynn — who signed with Buffalo on Monday as insurance if Thaddeus Lewis (who has been a member of the active roster for one week longer) gets hurt — was a backup who had one spectacular game with his first NFL team, a small sample size large enough to convince another franchise to give him way too much money.

For those who have managed to forget, Johnson’s 20-of-24 for 294 yards and two touchdowns (he ran for a third) cameo in Jacksonville’s 1997 season opener convinced Buffalo’s front office to fork over first- and fourth-round picks to get him, and a five-year, $25-million contract to lead them into the new millennium as the face of the post-Jim Kelly Bills.

Things did not quite work out that way. After three years of splitting time between the field and the injury report, as well as serving as half of the longest-running quarterback controversy in team history, Johnson was handed sole possession of the starting job when Doug Flutie was released in early 2001.

He lasted barely half the season before a shoulder injury — resulting from a play on which he held the ball way too long, of course — ended his Buffalo career.

Flynn’s singular star turn after nearly four seasons spent backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay was even more impressive, setting Packers records with 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 2011 season-closing 45-41 win against Detroit.

That got Flynn a three-year, $20.5 million deal from Seattle. The Seahawks did not take nearly as long to realize their mistake, going with Russell Wilson after the rookie outplayed their expensive new acquisition in training camp.

Last spring, Seattle traded him to Oakland, where he lost the summer competition to Terrelle Pryor. He filled in for an injured Pryor in Week 4 against Washington, getting sacked seven times, fumbling twice, and throwing an interception that got returned for a touchdown in a 24-14 loss.

The next day, he was demoted to third-string and a week later, the Raiders released him.

If Flynn is the new Johnson, the Bills are not even getting the Rob bolstered by brief success, but the one who got a few snaps with the Raiders and Redskins in 2003, battered by washouts in Buffalo and Tampa.

E.J. Manuel is still at least a month away from returning. Rookie free agent Jeff Tuel’s performance on a Thursday night in Cleveland led the recent flurry of quarterback tryouts and signings.

Lewis played better than anyone could have expected in last week’s 27-24 overtime loss to Cincinnati, and the Bills desperately need his sprained foot, and the rest of him, to remain intact Sunday in Miami and until Manuel’s knee sufficiently recovers.

Flynn is already listed ahead of Tuel on that depth chart. If his placement becomes relevant Sunday in Miami, find yourself a movie to watch, or some leaves to rake. You’ll be glad you did.

David Staba has written about the Buffalo Bills, among other topics, since 1990 for a variety of outlets, including We Want Marangi since way back in 2012.