A Mobile QB for Lovie Smith

Ronald Martinez

****   Note:  This article was written before the Bucs traded Mike Williams.  So the context of drafting a WR was still a luxury and not a need until after Williams was traded.  With that denoted, Lovie still wants a more mobile quarterback. ****

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith had a year off from the NFL and gained some perspective.  His forte is creating a top defense.  He also loves a strong run game.  There are a number of other organizations who are built like this such as the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.  During this past off-season, Lovie has rebuilt this team into his likeness which also resembles the 49ers and the reigning Super Bowl champions Seahawks.  Although they may be alike, there is one distinct difference between those two teams and the Bucs - a very mobile quarterback.

There is this old cliché that says, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."  Lovie has seen what a mobile quarterback can bring to an offense, especially when reception options are negated.  Currently on the roster, the Bucs have 34 year old Josh McCown and second year Mike Glennon.  Here's a quote from Lovie on Glennon:

"As you look at an NFL quarterback and what you expect from them, Mike Glennon can make every throw you ask an NFL quarterback to make," said Smith. "Mike isn't the most mobile guy in the pocket, so we will always be working to improve on some of those. He's a willing guy - for a rookie to come in and have success in the league, you have to like that part of it. He has a lot to learn, like most rookies do. As a rookie player to come in and see improvement and know that you can win with them, you play good football throughout. That's what we like right now. We're not a finished product by any means, but it's a starting spot."

In order to see what lays ahead in the future, let us venture to Lovie's past to observe if this mobile quarterback meme has always been an established idea or mimicking a new one.

2004 - 2012 Chicago Bears QB's under Lovie Smith

Year

QB

Rush Att

Rush Yds

Pass %

Pass yds

Pass TD

INT

2004

Chad Hutchinson

6

14

57.1

903

4

3

Craig Krenzel

18

41

46.5

718

3

6

Rex Grossman

11

48

56

607

1

3

Jonathan Quinn

3

35

52

413

1

3

Total

38

138

2641

9

15

2005

Kyle Orton

24

44

51.6

1869

9

13

Rex Grossman

0

0

51.3

259

1

2

Jeff Blake

1

-1

88.9

55

1

0

Total

25

43

2183

11

15

2006

Rex Grossman

24

2

54.6

3193

23

20

Brian Griese

6

-5

56.3

220

1

2

Total

30

-3

3413

24

22

2007

Brian Griese

13

28

61.5

1803

10

12

Rex Grossman

14

27

54.2

1411

4

7

Kyle Orton

5

-1

53.8

478

3

2

Total

32

54

3692

17

21

2008

Kyle Orton

24

49

58.5

2972

18

12

Rex Grossman

3

4

51.6

257

2

2

Total

27

53

3229

20

14

2009

Jay Cutler

40

173

60.5

3666

27

26

Total

40

173

60.5

3666

27

26

2010

Jay Cutler

50

232

60.4

3274

23

16

Todd Collins

0

0

37

68

0

5

Caleb Hanie

1

-1

71.4

55

0

0

Total

51

231

3397

23

21

2011

Jay Cutler

18

68

58

2319

13

7

Caleb Hanie

13

98

50

613

3

9

Josh McCown

12

68

63.6

414

2

4

Total

43

234

3346

18

20

2012

Jay Cutler

41

233

58.8

3033

19

14

Jason Campbell

7

28

62.7

265

2

2

Total

48

261

3298

21

16

Sources: ESPN.com and http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/chi/

From the moment Jay Cutler became quarterback for the Bears in 2008, Lovie has had the luxury of a mobile quarterback.  In 2011, the Bears had three quarterbacks run for a total of over 200 yards, which also includes current quarterback Josh McCown.

In Lovie's tenure in Chicago, he made the team get into the playoffs three times:

  • 2005 - Lost in a divisional game. QB Rush total for the year: 43 yards
  • 2006 - Lost in the Super Bowl. QB Rush total for the year: - 3 yards
  • 2010 - Lost in the conference game. QB Rush total for the year: 231 yards

Although 2012 had a great defense and finished with a 10 win season, it was not enough to make an appearance in the playoffs.  Within this quick snapshot of making the playoffs, we can notice two of the three times Lovie's teams have not had a great running quarterback and still make the playoffs.  This would prompt us to look at the team as a whole.

Lovie Smith's Chicago basic stats, 2004 - 2012

Year

Offense

Defense

Playoffs

Pass

Run

Pass

Run

PF

PA

2004

32

25

15

25

14.4

20.7

2005

31

8

5

11

16.3

12.6

Yes

2006

14

15

11

6

26.7

15.9

Yes

2007

15

30

27

24

20.9

21.8

2008

21

24

30

5

23.4

21.9

2009

17

29

13

23

20.4

23.4

2010

28

22

20

2

20.9

17.9

Yes

2011

26

9

28

5

22.1

21.3

2012

29

10

8

8

23.4

17.3

For the 2005 season, the passing offense was downright despicable and yet the other factors such as rushing offense, rushing defense as well as passing defense were above or near the top 10 in the league.  That season provided a season's best of 12.6 points allowed average.  2006 season possessed an even balanced offense combined with a very strong defense that lead towards a Super Bowl appearance.  Again, the defense put up great points against average of 15.9 which was ranked third overall in the league.  In 2010, the Bears' offense was mediocre, but the defense again was stout with 17.9 points against average.  The 2012 season was a very good season for the defense and the team did win 10 games, but unfortunately, the two wild card teams had a better record or better divisional record.  Those teams were Seattle with 11 wins and the Vikings, respectively.

One can win with a mobile and a non-mobile quarterback with Lovie Smith.  The determinant here happens to be a strong defense that can limit the opposition to under 18 points per game to increase the chances of making the playoffs.

Reducing the number of turnovers is a factor in helping the defense to keep a low points against average.  While a TD:INT ratio is not a great measure of how well a quarterback has played, it does paint a picture on scoring efficiency with respect to turnovers.  With a team based upon its defensive aspect first, reducing turnovers or having a higher TD:INT ratio may aid the team in wins.  Take a look at the chart the covers QB's under Lovie Smith.  The best TD:INT ratio was 2008 with a 20 TDs:14 INTs ratio.  Unfortunately for that season, the defense was not up to a superior level as they were ranked 28th in yards given up defensively.

Mr. Smith will have an old, familiar face and a young one to helm his offense.  Permit me to reveal what they did last season:

2013 Some Stats of Glennon and McCown

Year

Team

QB

Rush Att

Rush Yds

Pass %

Pass yds

Pass TD

INT

2013

TB

Mike Glennon

27

37

59.4

2608

19

9

Chi

Josh McCown

13

69

66.5

1829

13

1

These two quarterbacks' 2013 results are the best TD:INT ratio that Lovie Smith has ever incorporated since being a head coach.  If Lovie can bring the promise of a great defense, then he will have two quarterbacks that are cognizant about not turning the ball over egregiously.   That should help the defense keep a lower points per game average.

Take another look at those stats.  Those rushing yards reflect quarterbacks that are not mobile like a Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or RG III.  In McCown's younger years, he used to be a runner, although not like Cutler-like.  McCown started five games, but played in eight games.  In those eight games, he has averaged 228 yards per game throwing.  That number is his best average in the league last year.  It could be possible that McCown sees the light of being a pocket passer under Trestman in Chicago.  Glennon averaged 200 yards per game last year in 13 games and is not as mobile as a giraffe in the wild.  Suffice it to say, these two quarterbacks are not the most mobile in the league and do not expect 34 year old McCown to be runner.

With Culter as Lovie's quarterback in Chicago, we know that Lovie is accustomed to a mobile quarterback.  And with watching teams whose quarterbacks that can run with a strong defense succeed last year, it gives Lovie that much more of a nudge to look for a very mobile quarterback.

2013 NFL Basic Stat Rankings by Yards

Teams

Offense

Defense

Playoffs

QB Rush Totals

% of Total Rush

Rush

Pass

Rush

Pass

Phi

1

9

10

32

Yes

527

20.5

Buf

2

28

28

4

No

255

11

SF

3

30

4

7

Yes

518

23.5

Sea

4

26

7

1

Yes

540

24.6

The mobile quarterback era is represented in the top four of overall offensive rushing.  Three of the four are listed.  Their quarterbacks make up at least 20% or more of the overall rushing.  Lovie has never had that type of a mobile quarterback.  So he may be inclined to look at a rookie like a Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Brett Smith or Jordan Lynch.

Here is where I become confused.  Jeff Tedford is the offensive coordinator.  His offenses rely on the quarterback, spread offense, good running backs.  There's this notion of ‘speed in space' with specialty players like running backs and wide receivers.  A more mobile quarterback may rely on his run game than identifying coverages and exploiting them.  Both McCown and Glennon seem like a great fit for Tedford, but not ideal for Lovie.

I completely trust Lovie with the defense.  But on offense, it seems as though he is still testing things out.  We have three running backs who all fit a Tedford type offense and leapers at wide receiver with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson.  We are going to be trying out Jeff Demps at wide receiver to add speed.  This mobility issue seems moot in a Tedford offense, unless you have a quarterback that can be a pocket passer as well as have the ability to run, say like Andrew Luck.  But then you are looking at a franchise quarterback.  If one were to look at Lovie's 2006 Super Bowl run system, then having a strong defense with a balanced offense can lead to great things despite the lack of a mobile quarterback.  (** Note:  Williams was traded days after this article, but left in this article for contextual purposes at the time.  Also note, I emphasize I trust Lovie on defense, but not so much on offense.  The trading the of Williams kind of proves it.)

My question for you, Bucsnation, is to contemplate if Lovie is acting like Captain Ahab in his search for that franchise quarterback or should he play to the strengths of the offensive scheme whilst he continues to focus on producing a dominant defense?  If he is like Captain Ahab, then tell us which mobile quarterback will he be looking to acquire in the draft and where in the draft?

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