Glennon vs Game Film: Week 12, part two - more game manager than game winner

Gregory Shamus

In the second part of this week's Mike Glennon vs Game Film, we look in depth at some more plays that showcase both the continuing struggles of Glennon, and some flashes that inspire optimism for the future.

If you haven't read part one of this week's Mike Glennon vs game film, here's the link; you should read that first.

So, assuming you've all read part one, we'll jump straight in with the next play:

E) Almost everything you could want

For this play, I originally had the following written down in the 'notes' column of the weekly pass-by-pass chart in part one of the article:

Now THIS is a sign that Glennon could some day potentially become 'the guy'. Play breaks down, he escapes the pocket but keeps his eyes downfield, throws on the run but delivers the ball pretty much perfectly re: placement - see X below

I then had to change the paragraph. Most of what I wrote there is true, but there's one key difference: the play never broke down. Glennon scrambled from the pocket, but I cannot see any reason why he did, as you can see in the below screen cap:

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This screen cap was taken a split second before he decides to scramble. Where is there any pressure on this play? Glennon just decides to escape the pocket for no visible reason. It's a real headscratcher but, for reasons that will be explained below, it deserves mentioning. It's a shame, really, because Glennon did everything else perfectly. From the moment Glennon does decide to escape the pocket, for whatever reason, he then shows everything you could possible want to see.

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Since I started including screen caps in my game film review after Week 10, you'll have seen me mark out something similar to the above various times - showing all the area available for receivers to make YAC if Glennon can place the ball anywhere in front of the receiver instead of at or behind the receiver.

Well, throwing on the run, without setting his feet, Glennon manages to throw the perfect throw:

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THAT is exactly what you want to see. The ball is thrown A) where no defender has an opportunity to make a play for the ball, and B) where Underwood can catch it in stride to make potential YAC

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And as you can see, Underwood reins it in far enough infield from the sideline that he could have turned up and made even more yardage on the play.

Could have. Instead, Underwood gets pushed out of bounds, though he didn't look like he made too much of an effort to turn up to get more yardage if I'm being entirely honest. Still, Glennon came up with a fantastic throw on the run, with perfect placement to give his receiver the opportunity to make YAC (even if he didn't make anything of that opportunity). This is a play that makes one of the stronger cases for Glennon, as he displays pretty much everything you want - though you do have to question his thought process in leaving the pocket for no reason.

So here's the problem: each of those three elements - throwing on the run, placing the ball perfectly and escaping from the pocket despite there not being pressure - each show up in a much more negative light in the rest of the game. We'll look at three plays that highlight each of those areas, and why Glennon's still got a lot of work to do in improving (or at the very least, being more consistent) in those areas.

F) On the run

There's not much difference between this play and the previous play, except that Glennon and his target, in this case Wright, is a bit closer to the sideline. There's one other difference - unlike the previous play, where Glennon ran for no reason, he was genuinely flushed from the pocket under pressure. Now, I'm not saying that the presence rather than the absence of pressure mentally affected Glennon enough that it resulted in a poorly placed ball - God knows he's thrown enough poorly placed balls without any pressure whatsoever - but it's something to note. Still, this ball should not be coming out at this angle:

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There's the ball in the yellow circle. You'll see that though Glennon was flushed from the pocket, he doesn't actually have a defender anywhere near him on the play to hurry him. Now, the trajectory of that ball in relation to Wright? Yeah, that's not gonna be anything close to good placement. In fact...

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...the ball actually ends up bouncing off of the defender's helmet. That's how badly placed behind Wright the ball was. What's worse, you'll see I've circled in dark blue the chains. Again, this is why I emphasise ball placement; Wright was in position to pick up a first down - this play was a 3rd & 6 situation, immediately after the Lions scored a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead.

Glennon's poor placement results on a three-and-out, and the Lions drive all the way up the field, with only an interception by Keith Tandy - at the Bucs' own 1-yard line - preventing them from scoring unanswered points on back-to-back drives. Sadly, this poor ball placement, resulting in unsustained drives, happens far too often. This is the kind of throw Glennon has to be able to make consistently if he wants to be considered more than a game manager.

G) Location, location, location

Yes, the last play looked at bad ball placement, so could have served as a two-fer, but this play shows why you shouldn't be lured in by Glennon's stats: this pass may be a completion, but again it could have resulted in even greater yardage - and you just can't afford to leave free yardage on the field.

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The screen cap is taken just after Glennon has released the ball - you can see it just to the left of the 'S' at the base of the goalposts. (Out of interest, does anyone know why there would be an 'S' there? I'd guess maybe it's signifying the south endzone? Leave your theories in the comments!)

Glennon, in the yellow circle has no defender near him - no need to rush the throw. Wright is running a crossing route in the direction of the beige arrow.

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The problem is, the ball is thrown too far behind (where have we seen that before?) and, as you can tell by Wright's feet in relation to the rest of his body, he's had to break his speed right down in order to the catch the ball, killing off all his momentum.

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With no momentum, Wright turns straight up field, and into the embrace of two defenders. All credit to Wright, he manages to make four yards after the catch on this play, which added to Glennon's pass of five in the air notched nine yards on first and ten. Still, Wright had to stop running the route he was running just in order to catch the ball, and then from a standing start force his way through two defenders for an extra four yards.

This is what the play looks like from the All-22 angle:

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And that right there is the problem. You can see in the yellow circle, Wright's just caught the ball - but look in the beige circle how much space there was to the outside. Again, this screen cap is taken after Wright's slowed down to a stop - if this was in stride, he would have easily outpaced Glover Quin, in the blue circle. With Chris Houston, the corner at the top of the screen, being cleared out by Tiquan Underwood, this play would have gone for more than four yards after the catch. The fact that there was no pressure on the play just makes it that much more frustrating.

H) Given the sack

This is the final real offensive possession by the Bucs, not including the kneel downs (which Detroit where perfectly entitled to rush). It's the only sack Glennon took that I really place on him, for reasons that should be come clear.

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Something we've seen Mike Sullivan increasingly call on third downs are mesh concepts, as he does here. Vincent Jackson and Underwood are running the mesh, Tim Wright has a deep corner route, Chris Owusu runs a post, and finally Brian Leonard runs a flare out of the backfield. Glennon's primary read, or at least the area of the play he seems to look at first, is the mesh.

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With Jackson running in towards a covering defender, it's Underwood who emerges as the open target from the mesh, with Bill Bentely, who was tracking Jackson's drag, having to double back on himself to cover Underwood. Having had to break down his feet and change direction, Bentley now trails Underwood.

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You can see in the yellow circle Underwood has begun to got some separation with Bentley, and is further to the outside than DeAndre Levy, so for all intents and purposes, Underwood is open here.

I've also circled in dark blue the first down marker, and as you can see, Underwood is only a yard shy of the first down. Remember, this is third down, and is on what is effectively the Bucs' final meaningful progression of the game. The MO here has to be to pick up the first down in order to continue milking the clock. What's more, that down marker is the 'unofficial' down marker - the official set of chains is at the bottom of the screen. If you look there, you'll see that the first down line is not at the Lions' 22, but at their 23.

Or in other words, Underwood is already past the marker for a fresh set of downs.

Except... look at Glennon in the light blue circle. If it's not clear from this angle, he's just begun to scramble.

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Let's rewind a little and switch to the endzone camera angle. There's Jackson and Underwood crossing over in the mesh, with Glennon not yet declaring which route he's looking for.

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A few seconds later, and from the angle of Glennon's helmet you can tell he's looking to Jackson. I've circled something important here: you might notice that there's no pressure at all on Glennon.

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Underwood has just gotten the edge on Bentley to your left of the screen. Now, there's no-one open to Glennon's right. Rather than hitch to the backside to see if Underwood is open - which he absolutely has time to do, thanks to the fact that he's well-protected by his OL - he decides to scramble out of the pocket to his right (you can see his legs in 'run mode' in the yellow circle'.

It worked fine for Glennon on play E above, but that is why I still had to seriously question his thought process - just because it ended well on that play, it doesn't mean that Glennon should routinely be running out of the pocket when there's no pressure.

On this particular play, it really comes back to bite him. That's Joseph blocking Suh in the beige circle. Joseph's not actually doing a bad job, but as far as Joseph is concerned, Glennon is sitting in the pocket; so when Suh employs a spin move right towards where Glennon is running, Joseph doesn't react, because as far as he knows, the guy he's paid to protect is behind him.

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You can see in the yellow circle above, that if Glennon was still in the pocket, Joseph would actually have been in position to continue blocking Suh. Instead, Suh now sees Glennon scrambling, and what's worse, no longer has a blocker between him and the quarterback. Jackson is covered; Wright, in the beige circle in the top-right corner, isn't a viable option, as on his inside there's a safety coming over...

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...and on his outside, there's another safety already there, bracketing the tight end. So, with no option, Glennon continues to scramble towards the sideline. By doing so, however, he just makes it easy for Willie Young to disengage from Demar Dotson - who, again, cannot know what's going on behind his head - and chase down the QB without a blocker between them.

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Unsurprisingly, the play ends in a sack. With no pressure on him at all, rather than hitching to the backside to see if the receiver who had already caught both his touchdown passes on the day might be open, he decides to leave the pocket for no reason. His scrambling put him in an easy position for the Lions' DL to get to him, and unsurprisingly this 3rd & 2 situation, with the game still very much on the line, ends in a sack.

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It's clear, therefore, that Glennon has plenty of work to do. Still, he's more than capable of placing the ball in position to make good YAC - but he has to be able to do that consistently. The following two plays show a different conundrum with Glennon; on both plays, he shows very good ball placement, allowing the receivers to make YAC. Yet, I'll draw your attention back to Sander's article from last week about making 'big-boy throws'. There were times in the game when Glennon absolutely made 'big-boy throws', and the play E up above was perhaps the best of all, as, compared to the other big-boy throws, that one came at a time when that play needed to be made - i.e. on third down.

Last week's 'big-boy throw' got Greg Cossell all kinds of excited, declaring him to be a better pocket passer than Robert Griffin III, and was held up by many as proof that he can be more than a game manager.

Yet, too often when those situations arose - when Glennon, typically through Sullivan's play calling more than anything else - was in a position when he had to put the team on his shoulders and make a big-boy throw, he simply didn't even try.


I) The Conundrum I

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Here's a perfect example of that conundrum: Glennon is going to throw to Jackson, who's in the beige circle. This throw shows good anticipation on Glennon's part, and places it well enough that Jackson only needs to marginally adjust, and that's all I want to see from Glennon.

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Here's the catch from the endzone angle. Yeah, Jackson has to marginally slow down to make the catch but not enough to cause him to significantly change his route, so full credit to Glennon for this throw, right?

Well, not exactly:

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The photo above is exactly the same as the first photo in this set, but with some different annotations. The most important ones are the two dark blue circles, surrounding the down counter and the first down marker. Yes, the down and distance Glennon faces is third and 19. That's a tough ask for any QB to convert - but here's my issue:

I don't need to see Glennon convert this pass. I need to see him try.

This is where Glennon needs to step up and make a 'big-boy throw'. Glennon has two defenders starting to come off their blocks in the above picture, circled in light blue, but as you can by the fact that Glennon's already wound his arm back, he already knows where he's going.

Where's he's not going is to Tim Wright running a deep corner route. The CB on the outside is matched up in man coverage on Owusu at the top of the screen, as I've drawn in. As the CB follows Owusu in field, it opens up a huge patch of field for Wright, who's got an angle on the safety. If Glennon knows the routes that are going to be run, he's got to be aware that, against Cover 2 (which the Lions aren't disguising), the moment he sees the defense in man coverage underneath then that deep corner route will be open, and will be his best chance of converting.

But instead, he goes to a route which has very, very little chance of converting - Jackson caught the ball just five yards beyond the line of scrimmage - and personally, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a result of those two DL coming free.

Yes, I'm aware of field position, and Glennon's completion put the team in field goal range. If that's all you're looking for, then that's great.

But going for an underneath route to get three points, instead of throwing the route with the potential to pick up fresh downs? That is not a game winner. That's a game manager.

J) The Conundrum II

Similarly, here's a play where Glennon likewise places a very nice ball to an underneath receiver, but completely forgoes the opportunity to move the chains by doing so.

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You can see above, Glennon's wound up to throw. Now, that yellow arrow is pointing at Nick Fairley, who's coming in to hit Glennon low (illegally low, in fact, giving the Bucs a free first down). Glennon's not seen Fairley, though. He's made his decision without knowing there's a defender coming.

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Glennon lets the ball fly, hit as he does so. Now, this was actually a very nicely-placed pass by Glennon, all the more impressive for the fact that he was hit as he threw.

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And as you can see here, while Wright does need to turn back he never needs to break his stride, allowing him to make, according to the official NFL statistics, 6 additional yards on the play.

So what's the problem?

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Well, if you look at the three dark blue circles, you'll be able to see that this play is on 3rd & 15, and Wright is just five yards past the line of scrimmage. In other words, Glennon is asking Wright to pick up ten yards after the catch in order to make the first down.

You might also notice that there's Skye Dawson running a post in the middle of the field. Both safeties are turned towards the sideline, looking at the wide receiver. Not only is this a 'big-boy throw' that would have likely gotten the first down, but it's pretty much the same exact throw everyone got so excited about last week. You can't make that throw once and then consider the job done. The reason people got excited is because they took this as evidence that Glennon has turned the corner from game manager to game winner. Now, on a very similar set of routes, Glennon doesn't even attempt to make the throw that could have extended the drive, instead dumping it off to Wright before he feels the pressure get to him, and asking the tight end to try and make ten yards after the catch, which is a big ask.

It's not too dissimilar either to a play that actually killed the Bucs earlier this year; in fact, Dawson here was more actually more open than Jackson was on that long touchdown. The team could have had a similar result here. As a generality, posts are great at exploiting the deep middle of the field against two-high shells such as we see here, and on such a long down and distance, knowing what the coverage is pre-snap, I have no idea how Dawson, with his sub-4.4 speed, isn't the primary read here.

Again, here's my problem with the previous two plays: I know those are difficult throws to make, but the throws that Glennon makes instead might be high probability in terms of being a reception, but are low probability in terms of getting a first down.

I'm generally wary of using stats, but here's one for you: Mike Glennon dropped back on 12 third downs last Sunday. One of those was the sack I broke down above, which I do pin squarely on Glennon's shoulders for needlessly scrambling into danger. Another was a deliberately thrown-away pass which was probably the best option given the circumstances (preserving field possession for a field goal when there was no viable option to move the chains).

Of the remaining ten drop backs on third down, Glennon completed seven passes. A 70% completion ratio on third down should be a positive.

Of those ten drop backs on third down, only three were converted. Four of Glennon's seven completions on third down were short of the sticks.

Call me cynical, but in light of that - and in light of the fact that Glennon is checking down for easy completions which are unlikely to make the necessary yardage, which does wonders for your stat line but not a hell of a lot for actuall offensive production - at what point has Glennon shown that he can consistently be anything more than a game manager? If you can't sustain drives, you can have sustained success either. When the call was made, Glennon couldn't make the throws he had to make to keep drives going - and worse, didn't even attempt those throws on a majority of plays.

Let's end on a more positive note, though: here's the best throw of Glennon's pro career so far.

K) The Best Throw of Glennon's Pro Career So Far

This wasn't just a deep bomb; this showed everything that Glennon might one day be able to become.

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There's Glennon in the yellow circle, about to launch the ball. Underwood is inside of the corner in the beige circle, with a large expanse of open turf in the middle of the field due to the safety jumping down onto Wright, in the light blue circle. Now, I think Glennon is actually reading the safety here - if the safety doesn't jump down, I believe he would have thrown to Wright, but instead the throw to Underwood is wiiiiide open. If so, that's just a nice read of the defense by Glennon, and he doesn't hesitate to pull the trigger. Note though Underwood's position.

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We talk about anticipation throws. Well, Underwood was on the other side of the numbers when the ball was thrown; Glennon doesn't try and force it into Underwood, as he did in his first few weeks under center, but sees that there's a huge expanse of open field and launches it into an area where he can let his receiver adjust to the ball.

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And Underwood catches it, in stride, allowing him to take it all the way to the house. That's a great deep throw by Glennon, reading the back end of the defense and position the ball in the optimum spot. But wait; this play gets better.

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The crudely drawn arrow here shows the direction Penn is heading. Yeah, he's being bullrushed back towards the QB. I've circled Glennon's feet here; if he kept standing in this position, he would have possibly been sacked (see Stephen White's tweets from earlier).

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Penn in the above picture was standing where the pink circle is, but as you can see, he's now been pushed back to where the dark blue circle is. The yellow circle is where Glennon was standing. Glennon, sensing Penn being bullrushed backwards, calmly slides backwards away from where Penn is being pushed, to the beige circle, before setting his feet and throwing. And that is a huge step forward for Glennon. Previously, under that pressure, his feet would have turned to stone; if he was still standing in that yellow circle above, he doesn't get anywhere near as clean (or likely as accurate) a throw.

Instead, he senses the pressure, moves away while keeping his composure and, more importantly, his eyes downfield, and lets rip.

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And as you can see in the yellow circle, the ball is thrown right down the middle of the field, away from any defender. Glennon gives Underwood, in the beige circle, plenty of both time and space to adjust and make sure that he can catch the ball in stride. It's the perfect finish to an the play, and all in all it's a play that suggests Glennon maybe, just maybe, could some day be 'The Answer'.

But he's not there yet, or even close to it. I'm not sure why there's a rush to declare whether he is or isn't The Answer. We've got five games left, people - we all were convinced that the last guy was The Answer after that six-game streak where the Bucs had the best offense in the NFL. That turned out to be all smoke and mirrors; no-one saw that crash to earth coming, who can say how Glennon will fare over the remaining games? Glennon's streak is just two games - is that really enough evidence to declare him one thing or another?

Let's see how the next five games play out. No matter what, even if Glennon was to have a the worst possible five-game stretch in league history over the net five contexts, free agency doesn't even begin until March. There's plenty of time to make our minds up on Glennon. Let's not shower him with unabashed love for two games. Let's see what he can do. He's absolutely shown improvement, but he's also shown a lack of that 'killer mentality' to go out and sustain drives rather than his completion percentage.

But there are positives there. He's still making more mistake-filled plays than good plays, but the ratio is, gradually, shifting. He had three bonafide 'big-boy' throws this game, even though he wouldn't attempt others when the team needed him to. He's young. He's developing. Slow your roll on Glennon; at the rate he's developing, though, I just simply cannot see how anyone feels they'll be able to call him The Answer by the time this season's over.

If he continues to stay at the same level he was at during the Detroit game - where he needed help from the defense and special teams in the form of six turnovers AND a defensive touchdown to win by just three points - then no, quite frankly, he's not safe from a potential upgrade. Yet, if he continues to develop at the rate he has the past two games throughout the rest of the season, against increasingly difficult opposing defenses, then Glennon's positioning himself to be handed the reins for 2014, uncontested, to find out whether or not he truly can be The Answer.

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