I spend a lot of time looking into Mike Glennon's play at some detail for Bucs Nation, so naturally I was focusing on the specifics of Glennon's play as much as I could during the live broadcast of today's loss.
The problem with live broadcast is that it only shows you so much of the field, and even then many snaps are only ever shown once. So, a quick disclaimer: anything I write on this post about Glennon's on-field performance is flawed and limited, as will be anything written about Glennon's on-field performance against Carolina before Tuesday, around 8 or 9am EST. Why? Because that's when the NFL releases the coaches film - the All 22 and the end zone camera angles - that can offer the best possible insight into Glennon's play, without having a copy of the Bucs' playbook and gameplan.
With that said, let me flip Shakespeare on his head: I come not to bury Glennon, but to praise him.
Well, sort of.
This is the praise for Glennon I offer to those who were so certain that the two good games he had were enough to see him as a potential Answer (though none but the slimmest minority of especially knee-jerk Bucs fans were ready to declare him The Answer at this point):
Glennon, on first glance, appeared to be playing at more-or-less the same level he had the past two games.
Obviously, it wasn't as good a game, but watching live, it did appear to be one of the better offerings he's had so far. In particular, I saw him hitting receivers in stride more often than he has all year, which those who've read my columns over the season will know that it's probably my biggest issue with Glennon.
This apparent step forward in ball placement resulted in 63 yards-after-the-catch this week. That may not seem very much, but you'll have to bear in mind that Glennon had all of 180 receiving yards against the Panthers. In that context, the fact that over a third of today's aerial production came after the catch shows definite improvement. That, to me, is encouraging, as at least he shows some continued development.
He also wasn't helped by a bad offensive line, which saw him under pressure far too often, with the QB being sacked five times and hit an additional five times (just one 'QB touch' less than Detroit managed last week, with 4 sacks and 7 QB hits).
Even worse? The playcalling. This offensive coordinator did very little to try and put his quarterback in a situation to win. My biggest evidence for that?
The average distance the Bucs faced on third down this week: 9.8. That's frankly, ridiculous. It explains why the Bucs only converted one third down all game - and that on a pass on 3rd & 4, which was the shortest distance they faced on third down all game (though they did face 3rd & 4 three times).
How did the Bucs keep on facing such an abysmal third down distance? The answer lies, to me, in second down. Like many of you I'm sure, I was convinced the Bucs ran on pretty much every second down the faced (obvious hyperbole, but it did feel like that sometimes). I was surprised, therefore, when it turned out that the Bucs actually passed more than they ran on second down - 9 pass plays compared to 8 run plays.
Here's the difference: the average distance of Bucs' passing second downs was 8.1. The average distance of Bucs' rushing second downs was 11.7. The shortest distance the Bucs saw on a second down they ran on was 5 yards - which would have ranked fourth among passing second downs. Conversely, the longest the Bucs threw on on second down was 2nd & 15 - the longest they ran on second down? 2nd & 22. It's not hard to see why Glennon was put repeatedly in such bad third down situations by the OC.
So, does this give Glennon a pass on a what some a merely dismissing as 'rookie errors'?
Again, more will be revealed when the coaches film is released, but on first glance, it appears that Glennon's decision making, which I've pointed out on numerous occasions the past few weeks has been a real area of concern, was absolutely atrocious. He seemed to once again scramble from the pocket without any hint of pressure, which put him in bad situations; he repeatedly struggled to make his mind up to find a target to throw to, leading to him holding on to the ball more and taking more sacks than he should; and he frequently appeared to abandon his progressions far too early,locking on to receivers instead and making bad decisions, leading to one interception and two potential picks that the Carolina D dropped.
These issues do give me concern. It's why I pointed out last week that
If he continues to stay at the same level he was at during the Detroit game... then no, quite frankly, he's not safe from a potential upgrade.
And that, I fear, is the problem; too many people overlooked the underlying flaws in his fundamentals, in his decision making, and his habit of escaping the pocket for no apparent reason (which, as I explained in the comments, was clearly not a designed part of the offense - or at least, if it was, no-one told the OL), because 'a win is a win'.
Sometimes, 'a win is a win' is a blinder to the underlying problems. It's a lesson the fanbase should have learned after 2010. Well, I mentioned in an earlier column on Glennon that you cannot have sustained success if the underlying fundamentals are flawed.
Still, he is young, and he is developing - if he can continue to improve his ball placement, it will become a lot easier for him to be able to sustain drives (he only had five first downs by passing all game - by contrast, the league average is 12.5 a game). He has four full games to prove that this week was the blip, and the previous two games were the real trend.
Contrary to popular belief among some parts of the fanbase, if the comments section of Bucs Nation articles is to be believed, those of us who are taking a more cautious tack on Glennon are (if I may be so bold as to speak for others) absolutely not happy with today's result. Just because we may not feel Glennon has shown enough yet, it doesn't mean we don't believe he can't, one day, possibly be The Answer - and more than anything, we just want a QB who can take us to another championship. If that's Glennon, then that's fantastic, because it means we can turn our attention to other areas in the draft. What we don't want to do is see this team sink all its resources into building around Glennon just because he's already in the building.
Mike, buddy, you've got four games. It's on you - you can control your destiny (though you might want to ask Sullivan if he wouldn't mind trying to get you some easier third down situations). All you have to do in order to keep your job next year is not give us a reason to bring in competition. Today's loss was a stinker, sure, but the issue is the issues you displayed today are the same issues you've shown in every game you've had, just lesser in some areas, but much greater in others.
If you can continue showing development for the rest of the year, if you can speed up your decision making, if you can cultivate a better feel for pressure and the pocket, if you can continue improving in your ball placement, then One Buc Place is your oyster for the next offseason.
But if you show continued stagnation, as you did on the whole this week, then you'll have to fight for your job. It's all on you.
REMINDER: this article was written after one viewing of the game. Come back later in the week for your weekly Mike Glennon vs Game Film column for a more in-depth look at how the young QB did.