2014 NFL Draft: Buccaneers must compare Glennon to first-round quarterbacks

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must answer one question in April: is the best available quarterback likely to be a better player than Mike Glennon?

Lately, I'm seeing a lot of people ask why we are so harsh on Mike Glennon. Hasn't he looked pretty decent for being a rookie third-round pick? Doesn't he deserve a chance to show that he can be a good quarterback? Hasn't he looked better than Josh Freeman? The answer is simple: we're comparing Mike Glennon to a highly drafted first-round quarterback.

In the modern NFL, it is impossible to be a consistent playoff team without a good quarterback. Occasionally a team with a great defense and dominant running game reaches the playoffs once, like the Minnesota Vikings did last year, but those teams simply can't sustain that performance over multiple seasons, and they almost never manage to win even a single playoff game. Even the teams that have a great team surrounding their quarterbacks still have at least an above average quarterback to get them wins. At this point, Mike Glennon is not above average.

To be a perennial contender, the Bucs must do everything to find the best quarterback they can. The best way to find the best quarterback you can is to draft him high in the draft, and the opportunity to do so doesn't come around every other year. The Bucs have had three top five draft picks since 1995 and declined to draft a quarterback with each of them, passing up Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill among others. As a result, the team has not won a playoff game since their Super Bowl win.

Of course, there's a risk associated with drafting a quarterback high. What if he's bad? What if he doesn't develop quickly? Those questions are valid, but they should be compared to the alternative: starting Mike Glennon or signing someone like Jay Cutler (no true franchise quarterbacks are hitting free agent markets). Those options don't sound risk-free to me, and the 2011 CBA has made it much easier to move on from a highly drafted bust, even at quarterback.

There's also a sentiment somewhere that Jadeveon Clowney is a much safer prospect, but that isn't really true, either. The best comparison for him seems to be Julius Peppers, and while Peppers has been great, he hasn't really changed the teams he's played for -- at least not in the way good quarterbacks do. Of all the 29 defensive linemen drafted in the top 10 from 2000 to 2012, just twelve have notched more than 20 sacks. Of the 13 top five picks, just six have reached that production. Defensive linemen are not safer prospects than quarterbacks.

So what about waiting until the second round to draft a quarterback? Thanks to the aforementioned CBA, the difference in risk between the second overall and the 34th overall pick isn't that large to begin with, so you're not shying away from risk as much as you might think. More importantly, unless you think there are no good prospects at the top of the first round, you are settling for a worse player at the most important position on the team, when you should be doing everything you can to get the best possible player at that position.

Although it's early in the process, it looks like Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota will be the top two picks in the draft, with players like Derek Carr, Brett Hundley, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd potentially being first-round picks as well. Mike Glennon has nine more games to convince the team's decision makers that he's a better player than the best available quarterback in the draft.

That is why we are harsh on Mike Glennon. He's not competing against Josh Freeman or the incompetent quarterbacks of this league. He's competing for his job against a very good quarterback class. Despite the fact that he has not looked bad, he has not elevated his play to that level.

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