Mike Glennon vs. Game Film: Cause for Cautious Optimism

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Week Six saw Mike Glennon lead the Bucs' offense to scoring more points than they had all season, but it was still too little to deliver the team its first win of the year. While the result may have been disappointing, the game film on Glennon delivers at least a little hope to a team in desperate need of it.

When coming off your bye week, giving you two weeks to prepare for your next opponent, to face the worst-ranking defense in the NFL, scoring just 20 points is practically inexcusable; the fact that those 20 points represent the most the Bucs have scored in a game all year is just embarrassing. That low figure sees the Bucs tying with that high-powered Jaguar offense for the lowest season-high scores in the league, joining the Steelers, Raiders, Cardinals and Redskins as the only teams not to put up thirty points this year. Of those six teams, only the 3-3 Cardinals don't have a losing record, and the six teams have a combined 7-26 record in 2013. Hardly the most illustrious of companies for the Buccaneers to find themselves in.

Yet do not despair, Bucs fans; all is not quite lost yet. Well, the season clearly is lost, but there are still things to be gained this year - and finding out what exactly they have in Mike Glennon is one of the biggest things the team can learn this year. That paltry point score suggests that they may not have much in the third-round rookie - but the game film suggests otherwise.

First though, as we do every week, we've charted up each of Glennon's pass attempts from Sunday - which went a little something like this:

Pass Attempt Down & Distance Result Notes
1 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Jackson was completely covered, Glennon stared him down the whole way and missed an open Eric Page
2 3rd & 9 Incomplete to Underwood All receivers were tightly covered on this play
3 3rd & 7 8 to Wright (0 YAC) Goes through progression, delivers the ball to Wright with good placement
4 2nd & 12 10 to Jackson (0 YAC) Ball was low, preventing Jackson from making YAC
5 1st & 10 11 to Jackson (5 YAC) Goes through progression quickly and smoothly
6 2nd & 4 Intentional Grounding Protection broke down, but Glennon has to be smarter in those situations to prevent IG penalties - his second in two games. Handles same situation much better later in the game
7 3rd & 16 2 to Martin (0 YAC) Escaped a sack & dumped off to Martin, but there was no chance Martin could convert this down and distance from where he caught the ball. There was a deep receiver wide open after the sack escape - you'd like to see Glennon looking downfield in this situation to find the open man created by his escaping the sack, a la Ben Roethlisberger
8 2nd & 5 10 to Demps (11 YAC) Good ball placement allows Demps to make YAC
9 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Bad and inaccurate attempt at throwing a fade; Jackson was covered anyway
10 2nd & 10 24 to Jackson (10 YAC) for a touchdown Sells play-action well, hits wide open Jackson in stride, good ball placement allows Jackson to keep his stride and make the YAC to get into the endzone
11 1st & 10 5 to Wright (0 YAC)
12 2nd & 14 Incomplete Arm hit by Fletcher Cox as he threw. Still, every receiver on the side he was throwing towards was tightly covered
13 3rd & 15 Incomplete Flushed from pocket, thrown away. Suggests he's learnt from his mistake on pass attempt #6
14 1st & 15 8 to Owusu (10 YAC) Looks like it was a smoke route, but Glennon took a while to throw to Owusu. If it was an intended smoke, Glennon needs to get the ball out immediately - either that, or Owusu thought the play was an intended receiver screen. If that ball is thrown sooner, play could have definitely gone for more yards
15 2nd & 6 10 to Martin (15 YAC) Glennon appears to rush through his progression during the drop, but finds Martin on the swing route at the end of his drop and the Hamster is able to make the necessary YAC and more
16 1st & 10 4 to Wright (2 YAC)
17 2nd & 8 Incomplete to Underwood, OPI on Underwood Ball was way overthrown and out of bounds, another example that Glennon hasn't shown the deep ball accuracy to make that downfield sideline throw that served the Bucs so well last year
18 2nd & 18 Scramble for 4 No-one was coming open and Glennon saw grass, good on him for taking what the defense gave him
19 3rd & 14 Scramble for 16 As above, just good recognition of what was happening in front of him and seizing the opportunity to pick up yards with his legs
20 1st & 10 14 to Owusu (6 YAC) Good use of his legs to evade pressure and keeping his eyes downfield to find the open man
21 1st & Goal (at the 1) 1 to Jackson (0 YAC) for a touchdown Well-thrown fade
22 1st & 10 36 to Wright (21 YAC) Good ball placement to allow Wright to make the YAC
23 2nd & 4 Interception intended for Underwood The interception was definitely caused by Underwood stopping his route, but he looked to be double covered anyway and Tim Wright was wide open underneath. Underwood appears to stop his route because he believes the ball's going to Wright. That's all on Underwood; if he runs his route, this isn't a pick - but with the coverage on him, I'm scepitcal it would have been a catch either
24 1st & 10 16 to Jackson (0 YAC) Good job finding the open man in space
25 2nd & 10 3 to Demps (8 YAC) Designed running back screen
26 3rd & 7 12 to Wright (2 YAC) Ball thrown a little behind, Wright loses his balance from having to turn back from the ball and falls over for the extra two yards. Better placement would have seen better YAC
27 1st & 20 6 to Owusu (0 YAC) Good read
28 2nd & 24 Incomplete to Wright Very bad and inaccurate throw, didn't step into the throw at all - an example of Glennon's clay boots in the face of pressure
29 3rd & 24 6 to Martin (2 YAC) Protection held, and Glennon had downfield options, but he appears to get spooked out of the pocket by phantom pressure leading him to dump the ball off on 3rd & Very Long
30 2nd & 9 12 to Jackson (9 YAC)
31 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Another deep sideline throw sailing right out of bounds
32 3rd & 8 10 to Wright (0 YAC) Ridiculously good throw and catch through a very tight window. Arguably best throw Glennon's made so far as a pro, every option was tightly covered so he placed the ball perfectly, just far enough ahead of Wright that he could stretch out in front of the tight coverage to grab the ball, while not being too far for Wright to catch. A few inches either way and this pass is either incomplete or knocked down by the defender. Perfect, perfect throw.
33 1st & 10 Incomplete to Underwood Overthrown deep
34 3rd & 9 24 to Jackson (1 YAC) Good feet, escaping the collapsing pocket and finding Jackson downfield
35 2nd & 11 6 to Martin (1 YAC)
36 3rd & 5 16 to Wright (2 YAC)
37 2nd & 5 Incomplete to Underwood, DPI Was an accurate throw to Underwood, likely caught if not for the DPI
38 2nd & Goal (at the 9) Incomplete to Jackson Inaccurate throw to the fade, thrown off the back foot in the face of pressure
39 3rd & Goal (at the 9) Incomplete to Wright Underwood was wide open for a touchdown on the right side of the field but Glennon never looks that way, instead throws to a covered Wright and the defender bats the ball down
40 2nd & 9 Incomplete Flushed from the pocket and thrown away
41 3rd & 9 Sacked Only looked left, the only open receiver was Martin on the right side running a flat
42 1st & 10 7 to Jackson (0 YAC)
43 2nd & 3 Incomplete to Owusu Corner jumps the route, Glennon lucky to have not thrown an interception here
44 3rd & 3 Incomplete Backing away from pressure, Glennon throws off his back foot directly at the DT's outstretched arms
45 4th & 3 3 to Leonard (0 YAC) There were other open receivers near to the sidelines that would have made more sense in this context (trying to march downfield inside the two-minute warning) than a dumpoff to a running back in the middle of the field where you can't run out of bounds to preserve the clock
46 1st & 10 9 to Jackson (0 YAC) Again, there was an open out route that would have made more sense in this context than throwing to a receiver who is unable to get out of bounds
47 2nd & 1 Incomplete Thrown as he's being taken to ground, right at a DL's hands
48 3rd & 1 Sacked Only three routes, all deep, only one came open but he never looked at that side of the field
49 4th & 7 Incomplete Thrown off the back foot in the face of pressure

If you read through that chart, you might notice that there's a distinct change in how Glennon fared during the first 39 pass attempts, and from pass attempt #40 onwards - and that's not coincidental. For context, when Glennon threw pass attempt #40, the score was 28-20 to the Eagles, with under ten minutes left in the game. When the Bucs began their final possession - pass attempts #42 through #49 - the Eagles were 11 points ahead and there was 2:29 on the clock. With a rookie quarterback, it should be obvious what the Eagles defense did in that situation - send the house at him. For the second week in a row, Glennon's fundamentals went out the window the moment the defense started harassing him: his footwork made it look as if the Raymond James field was made out of treacle, he stopped going through his progression entirely, and made some really, really questionable decisions - particularly throwing the ball anyway when backing away from pressure, often right at the outstretched arms of the defensive linemen he's trying to back away from.

The unfortunate part is that those two final drives, which will no doubt be responsible for most people's takeaway from the game, belies what was actually a surprisingly good game from Glennon. He made mistakes - he was a third-round rookie for a reason, after all - but he showed the ability to correct those mistakes during the game, not having to wait to see it on film during the week (something he might be able to teach our coaching staff), in particular learning to escape the pocket before throwing the ball away to avoid further intentional grounding penalties, and keeping his eyes downfield when scrambling in the pocket (something he did on pass attempt #7, but corrected for pass attempts #20 and #34). That ability to quickly correct mistakes on the fly show an impressively mature side to the young quarterback, and one that should give Bucs fans a cautious sense of optimism over the kind of quarterback Glennon could potentially develop into - at least, as long as there isn't any pressure in his face (an issue that might have been highlighted on those final ten pass attempts, but created issues throughout the game when pressure got to him).

There is a lot to like about Glennon, and though I was a Glennon sceptic (and, for what it's worth, still think was a bit of a wasted pick based on the expected strength of the 2014 QB draft class), he makes some very, very nice throws throughout this game - none more so than pass attempt #32, which I wax lyrical about in the passing chart. When he has time, Glennon tends to deliver the ball with good placement, allowing receivers to catch the ball without having to break stride and putting them in position to make yardage after the catch - an attribute supplemented by Mike Sullivan utilising more crossing patterns and even a few recognisable passing concepts, something he failed to do through the first three weeks of the season. Of course, when the chips were down, Sullivan reverted to his usual gameplan - which plays to exactly none of Glennon's strengths.

What I mean by that is that Glennon's arm was clearly oversold when he was drafted. He simply doesn't have the arm to make the kind of deep throws that were a staple of this offense during the six-game stretch following last year's bye week that saw the team briefly lead the league in offense while going 4-1. If you're hoping Glennon can take the team back to that, I have bad news for you - he simply doesn't have the physical tools to do so, and that's something that simply can't be coached: you're either born with a cannon or you're not. The short and medium routes are absolutely in Glennon's wheelhouse, but once he's asked to make throws beyond 20 yards, he's being asked too much of. The deep ball accuracy simply isn't there; he doesn't have that deep ball touch to get the ball into the receivers' hands on deep routes in the middle of the field, overthrowing receivers by not being able to get that perfect arc that comes with a strong arm, while all his deep sideline throws have sailed out of bounds in both games he's played so far. Yes, he's a rookie, but this is an aspect of the game that is more natural than coachable, so it's not something that will improve much with time in the league. Glennon is what he is: a young quarterback who can't handle pressure, and sometimes makes questionable reads even with a clean pocket (as explained above, even though it was Underwood's fault that Glennon threw an interception, the coverage was tight enough that even if Underwood hadn't stopped his route I'm not at all comfortable saying that it's a completion either), but when given time will more often than not deliver the ball with good accuracy, shows the ability to move in the pocket and even pick up yardage with his feet (who knew Glennon had that little ace up his sleeve?), and as long as he's asked to keep nominally to short and medium routes, can absolutely start in this league.

Start, but not necessarily win. Glennon's two performances show nothing to suggest he can put a team on his back and win games on his own; if anything, Glennon's career trajectory might be better summed up with two words that not all Bucs fans will want to hear: "game manager". That's what Glennon will do for this team: he will take what he's given by the defense, more often than not make throws with good enough placement to prevent turnovers (beyond the odd rookie brain fart), and make sure things are ticking along just nicely. What I'm not convinced he can do is take the team on game-winning drives late in the fourth when the defense are sending the house and he has to make deeper throws to find the holes 20 yards away from him behind the blitzers. The question Buc fans need to ask themselves is whether or not they believe a game managing quarterback can win in today's NFL.

I will reiterate this, though: this offense is not the right offense for Glennon. He cannot have sustained success in this offensive scheme, it just doesn't play to Glennon's strengths and is built primarily around the kind of routes Glennon seems to naturally not have the tools to execute. However, he definitely took a step forward over the bye week, particularly in looking downfield more than he did against the Cardinals, where he spent far too often looking straight to his check down - and as a result his yards-per-attempt and yards-per-completion both went up marginally, and his longest completion through the air went from 14 yards to 21. If he continues to develop, then if the next head coach or offensive co-ordinator is from a west coast offense background *cough*Jay Gruden*cough*, Glennon might actually have put enough on tape to make him 'the guy', at least in that particular offense - which would allow the team to address other needs in the draft.

In all, this outing actually showed that Glennon could in the right system (and I cannot stress that enough) potentially be a viable long-term answer at the quarterback spot - the team may just need to adjust their expectations away from Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, under whose college coaches Glennon played, and more towards the Andy Daltons and Ryan Tannehills of this world.

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