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Mike Glennon vs Game Film: Week 12 - The Answer or more questions?

Mike Glennon followed up his then-best yet performance against the Falcons with an even better performance against the Lions. Despite leading the team to their third straight win, many of the same issues remain with Glennon - yet, he also flashed more promise in that game than he had before; but is it enough to declare him The Answer?

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

"The Answer". "The Guy". "The Franchise".

Some teams have it. Every other team has a GM who is desperately trying to find it: a quarterback who can put not just the team, but the entire organisation, on their back and lead them to both on-field success and off-field relevance. While no-one is ready to declare Glennon as being a quarterback of that stature yet, there are some who are closer than others to making that declaration in the seemingly not-too-distant future.

While he undoubtedly not only had his best game, but showed real flashes that maybe one day he could be "The Answer"... I'm not there yet.

There was absolutely things to like about Glennon on Sunday, and some signs of definite improvement - but there are still far too many mistakes, bad fundamentals and a lack of, well, gumption to make the kind of 'big-boy throw' that earned him a lot of praise last week. Did Glennon improve to have his best performance so far? Absolutely. Is two good games really enough to be sold on a guy, especially as they followed a three game stretch that showed considerable regression, culminating in his worst game to date? It isn't for me - but there's still five games left. Those five games will tell a lot about Glennon - but I'll leave my conclusion to part two.

That's right, Glennon's performance was such a mixed bag of positive flashes and concerning flaws that I'm going to look in depth at eleven of Glennon's twenty-six drop-backs from Sunday, over two parts, to get a fair cross-section of his performance. First though, as always, here's a pass-by-pass account of what Glennon did against the Lions:

(Plays marked with an asterisk are broken down in more detail either after the table, or in part two of the article)

Pass Attempt Down & Distance Result Notes
1 2nd & 8 Incomplete to Underwood

Very risky pass, let alone that there was a defender tracking Underwood the whole way. There was a defender underneath the pass who was a potential risk to jump it. Still, Sullivan kinda hung Glennon out to dry, didn't really have any other options

2 3rd & 8 Incomplete to Underwood Didn't have much of a choice with the pressure he faced on the play
3 3rd & 15 11 to Wright (6 YAC)* Good placement to Wright let him make the YAC, all the more impressive considering that Glennon was hit low as he threw. That said, I do have to question this play for one specific reason I'll elaborate on in part two of the article - see K in part two
4 2nd & 10 5 to Wright (0 YAC) Not great ball placement, but nice quick release
5 3rd & 5 7 to Wright (1 YAC) Not great placement again (DB really was in position to knock ball out of Wright's hands but didn't)
6 3rd & 6 16 to Wright (2 YAC)* Not a good throw. Some said "he put it where only his receiver can get it", but he easily had a step on the covering DB and there were no other defenders in the area as an interception risk. Could have gone for serious YAC if not thrown six inches off the ground - see A below
7 1st & 10 Sacked Not on Glennon, never really had an opportunity, by the time Rainey would have been able to catch the pass Ansah was already on Glennon
8 3rd & 19 14 to Jackson (9 YAC)* Good placement of the ball - might have gone for even more YAC if Jackson had read Leonard's block better. Still, there was a deep throw to Wright available that would have gotten the first down - see I in part two
9 1st & 10 47 to Jackson (2 YAC) As with previous deep balls, not a particularly good throw but gets in Jackson's strike zone, which is all you really need
10 3rd & 3 16 to Underwood (0 YAC)* Some real signs that Glennon could some day potentially become 'the guy', escapes the pocket but keeps his eyes downfield, throws on the run but delivers the ball pretty much perfectly re: placement. My only concern - there was no pressure, and I can't understand why he scrambled from the pocket for no reason - see E in part two
11 2nd & Goal, from the 7 7 to Underwood (0 YAC), touchdown I'm not convinced Glennon thought this was gonna be a TD since all three receivers were really, really, really tightly covered. Honestly, this was a great job by Underwood fighting for the ball, but good placement by Glennon gave Underwood the chance to fight for it
12 1st & 10 Sacked Terrible play design by Sullivan meant there were only two receivers running routes, both of whom were covered, and Rainey just absolutely whiffs on the blitz pick up. Glennon never stood a chance.
13 3rd & 22 9 to Wright (5 YAC) Didn't have a better option on the play
14 3rd & 16 Pass to Jackson broken up Again, Glennon didn't have great options as pressure meant he didn't have time to wait for the two deeper routes to develop. Not much else he really could have done here.
15 1st & 10 Incomplete to Leonard Appears to abort reading progression when he starts to feel pressure, throws off back foot due to pressure leading to really badly placed ball. Jackson was open deep but never looks that way.
16 3rd & 6 Incomplete to Wright* In contrast to pass attempt #10, this time he's flushed from the pocket but his throw on the run is really terribly placed. If placed better, should have resulted in a first down - see F in part two
17 1st & 10 Incomplete to Rainey Badly thrown ball due to instant pressure, designed screen to the RB but pressure got there too quickly
18 2nd & 10 14 to Wright (0 YAC)* Good ball here, but great movement in the pocket in response to pressure, stepping up instead of scrambling which is a big improvement - see D below
19 3rd & 16 Thrown away There was immediate pressure, he could have taken the hit and possibly found Wright but in the name of protecting the ball rather than risk a turnover, this was the right decision
20 1st & 10 9 to Wright (4 YAC)* Ball could have been placed better, would have gotten more YAC, especially as there was no pressure on this play - see G in part two
21 1st & 10 85 to Underwood (47 YAC)* Now THIS is a great deep ball, an almost-perfect arc and placed in an area which gave Underwood lots of space and time to adjust in order to catch in stride. Absolutely a great deep ball on this pass - see K in part two
22 2nd & 9 Sacked No open receivers on the play
23 3rd & 19 3 to Leonard (2 YAC)* Great job by Glennon escaping from pressure but far too much hesitancy on the throw meant Leonard was too close to the sideline to have the opportunity to make much YAC - see C below
24 1st & 10 Incomplete to Underwood* All kinds of defensive holding by Slay on Underwood, which he gets called for. That said, this was actually a great throw by Glennon because this one was genuinely putting the ball where only his guy could get to it - see B below
25 2nd & 7 4 to Wright (1 YAC) It looks like there was a deeper throw to Underwood able to be made here but the moment a bit of pressure comes in, Glennon looks straight to Wright. On further review, the deeper throw to Underwood may not have been there - this play is an interesting one, so much so that it'll get an article all of its own
26 3rd & 2 Sacked* This one's absolutely all on Glennon. There was a throw to be made to Undrewood if he had held in the pocket, but instead Glennon scrambles despite the fact there's no pressure. His scrambling put the OL in bad position and made it easy for some of the DL to get to him - see H in part two

So, that's Glennon's game in a snapshot - but let's look at some of his plays in greater detail. I've chosen two different scenarios a QB might face, looking at two different outcomes for each, one good and one bad. In part two, we'll look at a broader cross-section of plays.

(As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge)

A) "Where only his guy could get it"

OK, this one is something of a self-justification play. As said above, this was a play where people were saying it was a 'great throw' to Wright, because it was apparently somewhere where only his receiver could get the ball. Well, technically that's true - but there was plenty of space where Glennon could have put it where only his receiver could have gotten to it which would have had a better result. I said so at the time and plenty disagreed with me but it's simply not the case that this ball had to be thrown where it was.

Thing is, Glennon is absolutely capable of putting the ball where only his guy can get to it when needed, as we'll see in the following play. First, let's look at this particular play:



That's Tim Wright and Stephen Tulloch in the yellow circle. As you can see, Wright has a step on Tulloch (as you might expect, as Wright has a .2 seconds faster 40-yard dash time). You can also likely see just how much freaking room Wright has in front of him. Glennon just needs to lead Wright into the throw and there's some serious YAC to be made on the play.



Unfortunately, Glennon decides to place the ball six inches above the ground. Now, Wright comes up with a phenomenal diving catch, arms fully outstretched, to grab the ball. #81 has really emerged as an absolute weapon, and while he's too slight to ever be a true blocker in the run game, that was also true of the last guy to really be a threat out of the tight end position for the Bucs, Kellen Winslow II. If Tim Wright can continue at this pace, he should be as good for this team as K2 was in 2009 and '10 - but without any of the bad attitude.

Enough gushing about Wright though; the point is, he made a phenomenal catch, but him or Vincent Jackson are probably the only receivers who might have come up with this ball. It's just not a good pass and Wright bails Glennon out.

Here's the play from another angle:



As you can see, the ball, in the yellow circle, is never at risk from being intercepted by anyone, and as long as it's thrown vaguely in front of Wright, this ball's gong to be caught. There is absolutely no need for it to be thrown just off the ground - you can see in the beige circle that Wright's already beginning to dive for the ball, and he's still ahead of Tulloch; he would have had even more separation at this point if he wasn't in mid-dive. Note too Glennon, in the blue circle - there's no defenders near him. The QB is not under any kind of pressure to have caused Glennon to throw the ball where he does.



And here the catch has just been made. As I said, it's an utterly phenomenal catch by Wright, and fair play to him. Yet, just look at all the open field in the blue circle. If the ball isn't thrown just off the ground, but rather where Wright, with his speed advantage over Tulloch, can catch it in stride, that's a hell of a lot of YAC for the taking. Instead, it's a wasted opportunity.

Still, I'm not going to be all-negative on Glennon - the kid absolutely showed signs of real improvement this week, and to that end, here's a play where Glennon did throw it to where only his guy could catch it, and unlike on this play, when there was a legitimate interception risk, too.

B) Where only his guy could get it - take 2

When people say that a ball is thrown 'where only his guy could get it', just in case there's any confusion, it naturally means that the play will either result in a completion or an incompletion - not an interception. This is a great example of Glennon doing that just that, and though the result is an incompletion, this play shows Glennon with much, much better ball placement than we've typically seen from him. More importantly, the play might well have resulted in an completion had Tiquan Underwood not been on the receiving end of all kinds of holding from Darius Slay.



There's Slay holding Underwood in the yellow circle. Rushing towards the two, in the blue circle, is DeAndre Levy - who, it should be mentioned, is currently tied for most interceptions in the league with five, and the only linebacker tied for the top spot. You'll notice Glennon, in the beige circle, is winding up to throw to Underwood even though he's covered, and Vincent Jackson, in the pink circle along the other sideline, is wide open.

Well, despite the fact Jackson is open, he's really not in play here. This pass is off of a play-action, and by design of the play, Glennon is only ever going to look to his right hand side, so Underwood is probably the best option here as Lorig would be tackled shortly after catching a potential pass, since there's a linebacker heading right for him.



The pass is thrown, and Levy is looking way to close to comfort in the above picture. If Glennon throws this pass where he typically has been placing passes all season long, Levy's a real risk to undercut the route and get himself a pick - bear in mind that this play is taking place in the fourth quarter with 5:31 to go; the Bucs simply cannot afford a turn over here.



This screen cap above shows where Glennon's improving in ball placement - as well as showing just why I harp on about it so much. That yellow circle, that's where Glennon has typically placed passes all year long. If that's where this ball was heading, Levy could absolutely make a play on the ball. Instead, Glennon throws the ball towards the blue circle. That's the kind of ball placement which is truly where only his guy can make a play on it - and it shows a step forward in Glennon's development (the next question is whether he can do that consistently, but one step at a time).



And just to give you a sense of resolution, here's how the play ended - the ball was placed pretty much on the money by Glennon, and was a catchable ball. Slay does break it up, but is flagged for defensive holding, giving the Bucs 5 yards for free.

Similarly to the previous two plays, let's look at two plays that offers two takes on a similar theme, one bad and one good. In this case, we'll look at how Glennon responds to pressure.

C) A Great Escape



You might have to click the above photo to enlarge it, but you should still see a yellow circle. That yellow circle is around Glennon's helmet. yes, the pocket entirely collapsed, to the point where it's hard to make out Glennon from the offensive line who are being bull rushed back against the QB.



Instead of crumbling under the pressure, however, Glennon actually presses the ol' B button and spins away from the pocket. He scrambles towards the sideline, and will eventually pass to Brian Leonard, in the yellow circle. This is a big step up from what we saw from Glennon prior to the Seattle game, when his feet just turned to clay in the pocket in the face of pressure.



Switching back to the All-22 angle, you can see there's two potential pass targets, Leonard in yellow, and Chris Owusu (hey, remember him?) in the blue circle. If this was a QB who's used to throwing downfield on the run a la Ben Roethlisberger (which, it must be said, is an area Glennon's been steadily improving throughout the season, though not quite as deep as Owusu here), you might argue that Glennon should have targeted the wideout.

However, I not only don't have a problem with Glennon throwing to Leonard, I'd say that throwing to Owusu would have been foolish. If Glennon was an elite QB, then he should take this shot, but the situation of this play is in the middle of the fourth quarter, with the Bucs trying to preserve a slim lead. Throwing to Leonard is absolutely the right decision here to maintain field position and try for a field goal, especially as Leonard is far enough infield from the sideline to make some YAC. Don't get me wrong, Leonard's not going to pick up a set of fresh downs, but any yardage is good yardage in order to set up the field goal closer to the uprights.

Here's the problem, and it's been a problem with Glennon throughout the year: hesitancy hurts plays.



In the previous picture, Glennon had enough distance from Willie Young, who was being blocked by Donald Penn, to set his feet to make the throw. I've circled roughly where Glennon's launch point would have been in yellow. Instead, the above picture shows the moment when he throws the ball. Not only has Glennon's hesitancy meant the play's taken longer to unfold - giving the linebacker covering Leonard time to get closer to the running back - but, as I've circled in beige, Leonard's got much less room to try and negotiate some YAC.



And indeed, Leonard's caught the ball with no real room to manoeuvre, as circled in light blue. Glennon absolutely did well in escaping the collapsing pocket with a nifty spin move, but should have set his feet outside the pocket; but even if he had continued scrambling as he did, he needed to pull that trigger far earlier than he did. I've circled in dark blue the down marker, on the left, and the front of the chains, on the right. As you can tell, this play is third and very, very long. Glennon needs to know that the defense are likely to have defenders hanging back in a softer coverage to keep the ball in front of them and prevent any chance of a conversion. The longer Glennon waited, the more time it gave the linebacker to come down from his softer coverage to be get to Leonard almost as soon as he catches the ball.

So, this play showcases some good and bad: good, in terms of the improved response to pressure, but on the whole I'd say it's a bad play, in that the same hesitancy issues that has plagued Glennon for much of the season show up here.

And yet... he's capable of doing so much better in the same circumstances.

D) Keeping cool

Here's a different play where Glennon was faced with a collapsing pocket - but reacted much differently than he did on the previous play.



As you can see, the pocket is beginning to close up on Glennon. Penn is washing a DE over towards (but behind) Glennon, as indicated by the arrow. Rather than scramble, Glennon's going to set up where I've indicated with the blue circle, and throw to Wright, who's in the beige circle.



Glennon feels the pressure, but rather than scramble, he just shifts out of the pocket as indicated by the arrow, which gets Tulloch, in the light blue circle, moving too.



Here's another sign of Glennon's improvement: ever since the Seattle game, Glennon's response to pressure has generally been blindly scrambling. It would have been expected that, in response to the pressure he felt, he would have absolutely scrambled towards the sideline, which would have meant the only viable option would have been Erik Lorig, who I've circled in dark blue. Instead, as you can see, Glennon sets his feet to get an accurate throw, and throws over the head of Tulloch towards Wright.



The ball is slightly high, but more than catchable as Wright leaps in the air to come down with the ball, getting the first down. This was a true flash that Glennon might someday be 'The Guy', as he escapes from pressure but keeps his composure, finds the open man past the first-down marker, and throws the ball high enough that Tulloch can't intercept it underneath, but not so high that Wright can't catch it.

It was one of the most mature throws Glennon has made - Sander last week used the phrase 'big-boy throw', which I like and will roll with. Well this was absolutely a big-boy throw, and the kind of throw that, if Glennon can begin throwing consistently before the end of the season, will secure him the starting job going into 2014.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of times on Sunday when a 'big-boy throw' was needed to move the chains, and Glennon didn't even attempt to pull the trigger. To me, the unwillingness to attempt those throws when the situation calls for it is more concerning than if he attempted the throws but was unsuccessful with them. Still, rather than talking about those situations abstractly, I'm splitting this week's article into two pieces - so come back later for part two for more examples of the ups and downs of Glennon's performance against the Lions.