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Mike Glennon vs Game Film: a clearer picture emerges

Your weekly Mike Glennon game tape break down: we look at where Glennon's improving, where Glennon needs to improve, and where Glennon has shown no real improvement.

Otto Greule Jr

Hey look, the Bucs lost again! Huge surprise all round, right? The result may have been what we expected, but the manner that the team lost took everyone by surprise. For one quarter, the Bucs looked like the team that everyone in the preseason expected them to be. Of course, the coaching staff were unable to get out of their own way and a 21-point lead was squandered, but there were at least times on Sunday that Buc fans could say they were proud of their team. Maybe at some point this season, we can feel like that for a whole game! Wouldn't that be nice?

But I digress; we're here to talk about Glennon. The rookie QB appeared to have his best game so far as a pro, especially if you look at the stats: completion percentage of 73.91%, yards-per-attempt of 7.3, and a passer rating of 123.1 are each by a significant amount career highs for Glennon.

And yet, it wasn't enough. Sullivan recognised that far too much was being put on Glennon's shoulders, so dialed back significantly the number of passes called - the official stats give Glennon 23 pass attempts, a full 20 throws fewer than his second least-thrown game. In reality, passes were called 32 times during Sunday's game - and here's how each pass went:

Pass Attempt Down & Distance Result Notes
1 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Jackson drops pass, looks like he was too worried about being hit by safety. Defensive offsides gives the Bucs five free yards
2 1st & 5 Incomplete to Dawson Only three deep routes, all of which are easily covered. Terrible play, but DPI bails the offense out
3 2nd & 7 Sacked Can#t really fault Glennon, never had a chance to go through progression before he's sacked
4 3rd & 18 8 to Leonard (8 YAC) There was a deep curl open along the sideline but the one time that Glennon looks that way, he appears to be spooked by movement in the DL (even though the OL recovers) and went straight to the checkdown
5 2nd & 8 Incomplete to Jackson Pass broken up but in all fairness, terrible route selection left all receivers covered. Still, Glennon doesn't look to anyone but Jackson despite the tight coverage
6 3rd & 8 14 to Wright (3 YAC) Looks like Glennon misread the D and thought it was man coverage but was actually zone. Flat defender was millimetres away from a pick, more a matter of luck than skill on Glennon's part
7 3rd & 2 6 to Jackson (0 YAC)
8 1st & 10 Incomplete to Dawson Interception by Earl Thomas, though it looks like he didn't get a second feet in bounds. DPI call on Thomas renders it moot - though Eric Page was getting open in the middle of the field, might have been the better call than Dawson
9 1st & 10 12 to Wright (0 YAC), touchdown Scramble drill, good job by Glennon keeping eyes downfield & Wright on working his way open
10 3rd & 1 7 to Lorig (6 YAC)
11 2nd & 9 2 to Lorig (6 YAC) Dump off, everyone else covered
12 3rd & 7 9 to Underwood (0 YAC) Glennon scrambles under pressure, keeps eyes downfield to find Underwood but pass is a little under thrown, Underwood has to come back to the ball & lay out for the catch
13 3rd & 4 19 to Leonard (17 YAC) Well-placed ball allows Leonard to catch without breaking stride, getting the edge on his defender & making great YAC
14 1st & 10 20 to Underwood (0 YAC), touchdown Another scramble drill, Glennon should be commended on the play for not panicking when he had three free defenders in his face but instead finding his receiver for the TD
15 1st & 10 27 to Wright (2 YAC) It's telling that Glennon had both Wright and Jackson open - Jackson perhaps even more so, might have had enough space to put in the necessary YAC for a touchdown, but Glennon chose to throw to Wright instead. Not that it's a bad thing, just interesting to watch that chemistry develop
16 1st & 10 Incomplete to Jackson Pass flutters to the ground far short, no power in Glennon's throw, though he is being taken to the ground as the ball is thrown
17 3rd & 4 13 to Leonard Good job by Glennon standing firm in the pocket to take a hit from a free blitzer in order to make the throw
18 1st & 10 Thrown out of bounds There was only one place Glennon could have gone but he doesn't look that way, aside from that, there was nothing Glennon could really do
19 3rd & 8 Incomplete to Underwood To be honest it was a good play by Glennon escaping a sack, scrambling, keeping his eyes downfield - if it wasn't for Earl Thomas's unrivalled, elite closing speed, this play could have been a touchdown
20 3rd & 14 8 to Leonard (9 YAC) Designed running back screen on third and long - the same play that's failed all year. But I've already talked about that at length.
21 1st & 10 5 to Lorig (5 YAC) Crabtree wide open on the other side of the field
22 1st & 10 5 to James (3 YAC) Ball placement good but Lorig (!!!!) was wide open down the field, having lined up as a TE on the play
23 3rd & 3 Sacked This one's on Glennon, Skye Dawson was open in the flat but Glennon never looks his way
24 2nd & 7 5 to Jackson (0 YAC)
25 3rd & 2 Thrown out of bounds No-one really open
26 1st & 10 5 to Wright (0 YAC)
27 2nd & 5 Scramble Gets 10 yards, but Sky Dawson was open
28 1st & 10 Thrown out of bounds Graham flushed from pocket, no-one open at any point that Glennon could have thrown to
29 2nd & 10 3 to James (5 YAC) Looks to Jackson then checks down to James, even though Jackson was about to get open on his break
30 3rd & 7 Scramble Glennon had no real reason to scramble, there was a little blindside heat through Dotson but not much, and there's every chance Dotson might have washed him up field enough. However, TIM WRIGHT BROKE OPEN WHEN KAM CHANCELLOR BIT ON THE DOUBLE MOVE, LEAVING WRIGHT WIDE OPEN. IF GLENNON HAD STUCK IN THE POCKET AND GONE THROUGH HIS PROGRESSION, THIS IS AT THE VERY LEAST A LONG PASS CAUGHT DOWN FROM BEHIND INSIDE FIELD GOAL RANGE AND AND AT THE MOST, A TOUCHDOWN THAT WINS THE BUCS THE GAME
31 1st & 10 Scramble Glennon chooses to scramble instead of stepping up into the pocket, misses a WIDE OPEN Jackson
32 3rd & 7 Sacked Misses the window for Wright, though Wright's crossing route is a bit short of the sticks which is why he could have been looking downfield instead

Pop quiz, boys and girls: guess which play I'm really, really mad about?

Yes, it's true, on pass attempt #30, Glennon could have either given the Bucs the lead, or at least put them in field goal position, if he had not scarpered at the first hint of pressure, but rather stepped up into the pocket and kept scanning the field. Oh, and in case you were wondering, pass attempt #30 came with 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter, so it really was a game-winning opportunity wasted.

Let's move aside from that one play, though, to a more general overview of his performance on Sunday. The truth is, despite what the stats may suggest, Glennon did not have as good a game as has been claimed. His ball placement, that early on was good when not under pressure, has plunged into inconsistency regardless of whether he's getting a clean pocket or not. He is slow through his progression, and seems to not have a great sense of awareness for game situations - just because a player is open, it doesn't mean you should throw to them if the down and distance requires something deeper, for example.

Another negative tendency appears to have emerged. I've often complained about Glennon's concrete shoes in the face of pressure, and in Glennon's defense, I'm not sure I really saw many (or even any) instances of that in last Sunday's game. That's a good thing. The reason why he seems to have rid himself of his glacial footwork under pressure? He seems to have replaced that trait with another inadvisable one - scrambling at the faintest hint of defensive heat. That scrambling is an issue because it increasingly reduces Glennon's passing options as he gets closer and closer towards the sideline. Pass attempt #22 was an example of this - Glennon was unable to find Lorig's open deep route because he was scrambling to the opposite sideline, at which point Lorig ceased being a viable option.

In Glennon's defense, one early criticism I had of him he seems to have fixed - keeping his eyes downfield when scrambling. It's actually become something Glennon's started doing almost instinctively, and what's better, is looking the whole length of the field, throwing to deeper open receivers instead of the check downs in front of him, as he had been doing early on. He know appears aware that scrambling towards the sideline will 'uncover' receivers as defensive players abandon their responsibilities in response to his scrambling - something that quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger have taken advantage of for years. Indeed, as I said above, if not for Earl Thomas's elite closing speed (which no free safety in the league can match), the Bucs' opening drive of the second half could easily have ended in a touchdown on that third down play (pass attempt #19).

But to take Glennon to the next step when he is flushed from the pocket, he needs to learn (and be taught - Glennon's flaws are as much, if not more so a failure on his QB coach's part than on his own) how to double back on himself, how to stop his feet and look back across the field. He displayed some of that, to an extent, on his second touchdown pass (pass attempt #14) - but it's something he has to learn to do consistently.

More importantly, though, is the distinction between being flushed from the pocket, and taking off from the pocket. Glennon did far too much of the latter for my liking; while it's obviously better that his response to pressure is 'run away', instead of 'standing in lead boots', Glennon needs to learn how to step up into the pocket, to let the tackles wash the pressure behind him. That would allow him to scan more of the field and make more, and better, completions.

Like with many rookie QBs, Glennon's body language often telegraphs to the defense where he's going with the ball - he does appear to use his eyes to try and 'look off' (i.e. move) the safety, but his arms remain tightly coiled to his chest. When he's going to throw, his body unwinds and it's pretty obvious to everyone that A) a throw is coming and B) almost definitely going to the receiver his eyes are pointing towards. Safeties have noticed this. Now, this is where the coaching staff comes in:

If this coaching staff was competent, I'd be expecting them to notice this trend of safeties cheating down when Glennon's body language shifts to throwing mode - it's pretty obvious on tape - and look to use it to their advantage. Sullivan should notice this, and McNulty should be spending time this week in teaching Glennon to do everything he would normally do to throw before he's found an open target. If Glennon can do this, there would be many open backside routes due to safeties cheating down. He may not be an instant jaw-dropper, but Glennon has definitely improved and corrected in some areas (particularly in looking down the field as he scrambles), and it's something that could be added to his arsenal in a matter of weeks.

Then again, the probably of that happening is directly related to the competency of the coaching staff so... well, you can make your own conclusions about that.

While I offer praise on Glennon on improving his vision while scrambling, and for at least trying something different in the face of pressure, it still remains that for whatever reason, his placement is no longer as consistent (as in, consistently decent with a clean pocket and consistently terrible in the face of pressure), and that led to missed passes that the team could ill-afford. It's also fair to question his decision making - there's no way, for example, the ball should have been thrown anywhere near Dawson on Earl Thomas's would-be pick. Still, he does seem to improve in some small ways every week.

You can tell the moment the coaching staff panicked, though. As with last week, the coaches absolutely stepped up the pressure on Glennon's shoulders in the fourth quarter, and the rookie was again ill-equipped to deal with it. Of the 32 passes called in during the game, 12 of them - 37.5%, or 3/8ths if you're fractionally inclined - came in the fourth quarter and overtime. That's a significant step up twice in a row from the first three quarters to the fourth, and it should absolutely not be happening.

Or, to put it in more stark terms: of the 16 plays Mike Sullivan called in the fourth quarter and overtime, 13 of them were passes.

Balancing the offense to help Glennon worked for a majority of the first three quarters (though again, when the situation changed, the coaching staff just did not have either the mental faculty or the intestinal fortitude to adjust). But with their backs against the wall, any sort of conception of how the team even ended up with a chance to win at the end of the game flew out the window in favour of the much-favoured "screw it, just throw the damn thing" approach.

And where does all this leave us re: Glennon's future? The ball placement regression is a bit concerning, and he's still clearly got a lot to learn and improve on. Yet, there are areas where he's definitely getting better, and his coaching staff could absolutely help him improve beyond that. If the Bucs ended up in position to draft one of the so-called 'can't miss' prospects, then Glennon's fate is sealed.

But if the Bucs end up drafting even outside the top three (though looking increasingly unlikely), there's a possibility Glennon remains with a realistic chance to start. From game film, he appears to be coachable, and as I've said in every review I've done of him so far, I absolutely believe he's got the tools to be a successful quarterback in the right scheme (specifically in the West Coast Offense). There are three things that would be needed for Glennon to stick around, though: bringing in a coaching staff who are committed to the WCO, bringing in a good, proven QB coach to help develop Glennon's natural tools, and a commitment from the front office to re-building the interior of the offensive line.

With those three things in place, I can see an argument for passing on a quarterback in April's draft and bringing in some veteran competition (say, a Matt Schaub) instead. Glennon's got the tools to succeed in an offense that doesn't ask too much of him - he'll never be elite but there's no reason he couldn't have a respectable starting career in this league, if the FO surrounds him with the right pieces both on and, more importantly, off the field. I've used Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill as comparable QBs in the past; here's two other names that fans can take into account when picturing what Glennon could become: Alex Smith and Jake Delhomme. Not terribly exciting, but not Jaguar-level prospects either.

In all, the picture on Glennon is becoming ever clearer: for all that he has tools that can be developed, his ceiling at this point appears to be limited, and there's very little evidence to suggest otherwise. If the team's in position to draft a quarterback who from day one can keep both his head and his pocket presence in the face of pressure, the Glennon Era likely runs out next May.