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Mike Glennon vs Game Film: Week 13 - chickens come home to roost

With the team's three-game win streak, and Glennon's eight-game touchdown streak, brought to an abrupt end this past Sunday against the Panthers, we look at the game film to see how Glennon fared in his first game without throwing a touchdown pass.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Without question, Glennon had a bad outing on Sunday. I already gave my initial reaction to his performance following the loss, so was curious to see if the tape would confirm what my gut told me.

For the most part, it did. The ball placement was not as good as I thought on the whole, but was still a definite improvement. He was absolutely not helped by Sullivan, and that seemed to be even more true after watching the coaches film - there were just so many terribly, terribly designed plays that it would be a real struggle for any quarterback to have significant success. Still, none of that excused Glennon: his decision making was just as bad as I thought it was at first watch.

What's more, I stand by my statement in that earlier article: Sunday probably represented one of his better games all year. Sunday was not a good game.

I think you can grab the inference.

Truthfully, Glennon's performance was just not as good as many believed the past two weeks; though he might have been playing at the lower-end of this level, it was still the same general level of play as he had against Detroit, making the same mistakes this week as he did last week.

I've chosen to break down in detail less plays this week, partially because I need to state my case less firmly this week that Glennon still has too many critical physical and mental flaws in his play, and partially because I hope it'll give me the chance to get some OL review out this week. First, though, here's the weekly dropback-by-dropback chart for Glennon:

Pass Attempt Down & Distance Result Notes
1 2nd & 9 16 to Underwood (9 YAC) Good placement by Glennon allows the YAC
2 1st & 10 23 to Underwood (3 YAC) Play-action sucks in the LBs, Glennon needs to throw this ball much sooner, waited for Underwood to break his route first, giving safety a head start to bring him down for not much YAC
3 1st & 10 5 to Rainey (8 YAC)* Not one, but two open receivers right behind Rainey. Glennon was facing their direction but chose to check down to Rainey - See 'A' below
4 3rd & 4 2 to Leonard (1 YAC) Chris Owusu was open due to a coverage bust, Glennon never looks at that side of the field despite there being three receivers there. Wright was open deep on the same side of the field as Leonard but Glennon checks it down instead
5 1st & 10 Incomplete to Wright REALLY poor decision by Glennon, pass was pickable by Munnerlyn. Though Glennon was chased from pocket, you can see he was about to throw to Underwood; he had time to make that throw but would have meant taking the hit, chose to scramble instead
6 3rd & 10 Incomplete to Owusu The read was right but the pass was underthrown and should have been an interception
7 3rd & 20 7 to Wright (1 YAC) Glennon really seems afraid of being hit. Looks like he was going to wind up to throw to Jackson but instead tucked ball back in because throwing would have meant taking the hit. Meanwhile, Underwood was COMPLETELY UNCOVERED along opposite sideline
8 1st & 10 12 to Underwood (-1 YAC) Designed roll-out/'travelling pocket', good throw by Glennon, making sure he got some space & set his feet before the throw
9 2nd & 7 Incomplete to Wright* Now, Wright was 'bumped' by Kuechly, which drew an Illegal Contact penalty, but the ball was thrown nowhere near Wright. What's worse, Wright was clearly being bracketed by two defenders, yet he still threw at him rather than moving through progression - even though there was a WIDE OPEN receiver outside of Wright - See 'B' below
10 1st & 10 60 to Jackson (28 YAC) Nicely thrown deep ball let Jackson catch in stride
11 2nd & Goal, from the 4 Incomplete to Underwood Absolutely everyone was covered and there were no scramble lanes open so nothing Glennon could have done
12 3rd & Goal, from the 4 'Sacked' Technically this goes down as a sack, but it's Glennon slippy hand fumble. Still, at the time Glennon throws, there's no receiver who can possibly catch the ball, you can see who he was trying to throw to but Glennon hesitates so much that by the time he winds back to throw, the receiver was already heading out of bounds
13 1st & 10 -1 to Lorig (3 YAC) Decently placed ball with a defender in his face
14 3rd & 10 Sacked Penn just got beaten inside, but if Glennon had stuck in the pocket and thrown with anticipation, he would have had time to deliver the ball to where Wright was going to break his route
15 2nd & 1 Interception Really poor play design, I've been complaining all year about this play - play-action, with only two receivers released into routes. Hasn't worked ALL YEAR LONG. Still Sullivan calls it. Both routes were well covered, so not sure what Glennon should have done here. Ball was still underthrown for Jackson, though
16 2nd & 14 10 to Wright (5 YAC) There may have been a 'better' route on the play, but if Wright was the first read then fair play
17 3rd & 4 20 to Owusu (4 YAC) Bad ball placement, too high and a little behind Owusu meant all the YAC came from him falling backwards after jumping for the ball. There was plenty of open field for Glennon to lead Owusu into, and could have made serious YAC
18 1st & 10 3 to Rainey (0 YAC)* Good ball placement by Glennon but bad decision making, there was a throw to Wright that would have been open, required an 'anticipation' throw from Glennon but chose checkdown instead - See 'C' below
19 2nd & 7 Jackson run for no gain Technically this is a running play because Glenno nthrew the ball backwards to Jackson, but is basically a 'smoke route'. Defender sniffed it and brought Jackson down at LOS
20 3rd & 7 Incomplete to Jackson Based on Tim Wright's actions, I think this was meant to be a receiver screen. Defense don't bite, but that's irrelevant as Glennon throws off his back foot despite there being no pressure, and the ball lands next to Jackson's feet. Just a terrible throw
21 1st & 10 Sacked Glennon didn't have a chance here, Penn got caught up in a stunt so the linebacker comes completely unblocked & sacks Glennon
22 3rd & 14 Scramble Designed roll-out/'travelling pocket', there was a deep throw but Glennon chose not to pull the trigger, instead double backs on himself and runs to the opposite side of the field, and though the field's wide open Glennon is slow and the defense chases him down so he runs out of bounds for a gain of four
23 1st & 10 Incomplete to Owusu Really badly-thrown ball, Glennon put no lower body into his throw due to defenders in his face. With the pressure in his face, Owusu was probably the right target, but has to be able to take the hit to make an accurate throw
24 2nd & 15 8 to Leonard (6 YAC) Very nicely-placed ball here
25 3rd & 7 Sacked At first I thought this was one where Glennon should be blamed for holding on, but htis was actually a horrible, horrible play design which genuinely didn't give Glennon any targets before he's sacked
26 1st & 10 7 to Jackson (2 YAC)
27 2nd & 3 Incomplete to Wright Good job escaping pressure but a horrible pass thrown far too high. Joseph flagged for holding
28 2nd & 13 Sacked* This one's definitely on Glennon. Initially hesitates to throw to Owusu, then tucks the ball in because there's a free defender though he could have gotten the pass off if he had taken the hit. He then escapes from pressure, sets back up and has the option of throwing to Owusu again or Wright open deep, but again that would have required taking the hit so he attempts to scramble instead but is brought down for a sack - See 'D' below
29 3rd & 18 8 to Jackson (1 YAC)
30 4th & 10 Incomplete to Rainey Hesitated to throw to either of two deep open routes, pulls ball back in instead of taking the hit to make a throw, scrambles to the other side of the field and makes a bad throw that's WAY too high for Rainey

Many of Glennon's issues, that as we pointed out were still plain to see during the pervious two games, were more obvious last Sunday than they've been since the Miami game. As such, I'm only going to break down four plays with screencaps, but I believe each one highlights different areas where Glennon needs to show clear and firm improvement over the last four games.

A) Taking the easy way out?

One of the things I've pointed out repeatedly over the past few games is Glennon will far, far too often take the check-down throw over deeper available routes. I chose this play because there was not one, but two deeper routes available:



That's Chris Owusu just in front of the goal line, getting separation from the corner. This is the harder throw, as it's possible the corner might have broken the pass up - but as long as the throw was accurate, this is a completable pass. Underneath him, at the ten-yard line, is Tim Wright, who is open. He may not have made much YAC - it's likely the two defenders would have tackled him as soon as the catch was made - but Wright's been a very good player for most of this season, so this is pretty much a guaranteed gain of 7.

Instead, as you can tell by the ball, circled in yellow, Glennon chooses to check down to Bobby Rainey. Notice that I've circled in dark blue the down counter; yes, Rainey catches this ball three yards behind the line of scrimmage. The two defenders near Wright charge Rainey down, and he has to make one defender miss to avoid being tackled just past the LOS. Rainey struggles to regain his balance, though, and is brought down at the Carolina 12. Two yards short of where Wright was open for a pass.

This isn't even a case of expecting Glennon to scan the whole field - both Owusu and Wright are in the same direction to Glennon as Rainey is. If Glennon didn't see these two, you've got to ask yourself why Glennon would not even attempt to look for a deeper route, but rather hit the checkdown - behind the LOS - as a gut instinct. As I said last week- that suggests to me the instincts of a game manager, not a game winner.

B) Decision making

The following play saw an Illegal Contact penalty flag thrown against Luke Kuechly for bumping Wright, which was probably fair. Still, even though this play was nullified by a penalty, it still highlights Glennon's decision making, and arguably his ability to read the field.



Here you can see that Tim Wright is being covered by two defender, Kuechly and Quintin Mikell. As both defenders are covering Wright, our newest tight end, Kyle Adams, is left uncovered, as I've marked with a beige circle.



The ball is in the air, in the yellow circle on the right, and is heading towards Tim Wright, in the yellow circle on the left. Adams is now not only still wide open, but is past the first down marker, circled in dark blue. While Mikell obviously would have turned around to try and tackle Adams, the fact that he had his back turned to the sideline and was focused intently on Wright makes me believe that Adams would have absolutely been the better choice here.

All of that is moot, though, as Glennon's pass is bafflingly off-target:



Even if you account for Wright being bumped by Kuechly, on the tape it doesn't look possible that Wright is bumped so far off his route he should have been where Glennon threw to - at most he was maybe bumped a half-yard off his route. Still, Glennon threw this ball inside of Wright, where Kuechly was, and with a safety bracketing the tight end together with the linebacker. Of the three players in the circle, Wright is the least likely to come away with the ball.

Let's say this was just a bad throw, as quarterbacks will have on occasion, and that 9 times out of 10 the ball's not thrown this badly off-target. Even then, it doesn't excuse this throw: Wright was quite clearly being bracketed by Kuechly and Mikell; and, rather than move on through his progression when his first read is double-covered, he chose to throw at him anyway. Despite the fact that there was an open receiver just a few yards outside of Wright.

C) Where is the 'big-boy' throw we saw against Atlanta?

I made reference throughout last week's article of Glennon and 'big-boy' throws, as it was an apt phrase used by Sander in this article. In that article, Sander broke down a play which was the one Greg Cosell held up as being the best example of Glennon giving the Bucs no reason to draft a QB. Well, I pointed out last week that against Detroit, Glennon had the opportunity to make similar 'big-boy' throws as that one against Atlanta, and didn't (or wouldn't).

It's all well and good pointing out one play where Glennon showed promise, but the question remains: can he make those throws consistently? The answer against Detroit appeared to be 'no' - and worse, not so much an inability to make those throws, as an unwillingness to make those throws.

That happened enough times against Carolina too - whenever I refer in the chart above to needing an 'anticipation' throw, I'm referring to exactly the kind of throw that Cosell, and many others, gushed over.

Here's an example:



I've drawn in the routes of two players, Wright, who runs a deep 'in' route (excuse the poor attempt at a straight line), and Rainey, who's running a shallow crossing route underneath in the opposite direction. Kuechly will be dropping into a zone in the middle of the field, and safety Mike Mitchell dropping to cover the deep middle of the field.

This is actually a rare sighting from Sullivan, using a genuine passing concept with complementary routes and everything. These two routes create a simple 'high-low' read for Glennon; if Kuechly stays deep, then Rainey's route will be open underneath; whereas if Kuechly comes down to cover Rainey's crossing route, then Wright will be open.

All Glennon needs to do is read Kuechly, and throw to the opposite of where he goes.



As you can see, Glennon has not yet wound back to throw, but Kuechly, from the way he's pumping his arms, is clearly coming down to cover the underneath route. Glennon needs to see this, and then throw to where Wright will emerge - no differently to how he did to Underwood on the play that got everyone so excited. At that point it's just a foot race between Wright and Mitchell to see how much YAC will be made, but there's no chance of Mitchell intercepting a pass here.

Instead, Glennon chose to throw to Rainey. In Glennon's defense, the ball was one of the better-placed passes Glennon had on Sunday, allowing Rainey to catch the ball in stride. If Kuechly had stayed high covering Wright, it would have got a lot of YAC. Unfortunately, Kuechly didn't stay high, and so Rainey runs horizontally rather than vertically to try and get a crease on the Kuechly. He's unable to, and is brought down for a gain of 3, with 0 YAC.

D) A Real Concern

There's been something that was nagging me about Glennon throughout, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it until this game; but once I realised it, I realised it's been a bigger problem than I had noticed before. I've mentioned it on occasion in my weekly Glennon reviews, but it was never so apparent as it was in this game. Still, it seems to be the answer to a lot of the questionmarks over Glennon, and it's worrying because I'm not sure it's something that's coachable.

Glennon is, or at least appears to be, afraid of being hit.

Worse: Glennon is, or at least appears to be, afraid of being hit to the point where it actively hurts the offense.

It's something I mentioned several times in this week's chart; there were so many plays to be made, and again worse, so many drives to be kept alive, that were missed out on because Glennon tucked the ball back in rather than stand tall in the pocket and take the hit in order to be able to make those throws.

I point out in my breakdown that while Glennon was responsible for some of the sacks he took by holding on too long, there were others which were down to poor protection, or terrible, terrible scheming by Sullivan.

This sack was all Glennon, and highlights this problem of being willing to take a hit in order to make a pass that could sustain a drive. It's that lack of killer instinct that makes me wonder if, mentally, he can be more than a game manager - and I don't know you can coach someone out of being scared, or coach someone to want to win more than anything, even if it means being hit.



There's Glennon, looking Chris Owusu who's running a short route that sees him break inside before hooking up in space. It looks to me that if he throws at this point, Owusu should have time to make a play on the ball. Instead, Glennon moves in the pocket to evade pressure. I don't have a problem with that; in fact, I think it's good to see Glennon show he is capable of a good pocket presence, though it's something he definitely needs to show more consistently over the remaining four games.



Here's the end zone view of that happening. Glennon slides backwards, allowing Jamon Meredith to wash Frank Alexander post him. The thing I like most here is that Glennon keeps looking downfield while sliding backwards, which should give him the time to scan the right half of the field. Glennon then holds up in the area of pocket vacated by Meredith. This is what is happening in front of him:



There's Owusu, hooked up in space, with a good bit of distance from the defenders. As this play is, as you can tell from the down marker and chains, taking place on 2nd & 13, throwing to Owusu here gets you, at a minimum, back to 3rd & 9, and with the defenders back covering Vincent Jackson, there'd likely be at least two or three yards YAC on top of that.

Alternatively, you can see Tim Wright streaking down the middle of the field, between two safeties. Wright is looking back inside - he can be hit in-stride as he splits the safeties, even on a slightly underthrown ball as he's looking over his shoulder for the pass.

In either case, Glennon should have had time to diagnose this while he was sliding backwards away from Alexander. At the very least, Owusu, who Glennon was already looking at, is wide open and ready to be hit.

Here's the endzone view:



That's Alexander and Greg Hardy both coming free from their blocks. If Glennon throws, he is going to be hit, but at the very minimum he has time to hit Owusu here, if not Wright.



Sadly, rather than taking the hit but completing the throw, setting up 3rd & 9 (this was late in the game, so the team was in fourth-down territory anyway), Glennon decides to run away from the two defensive linemen.



Wes Horton chases him down from behind and brings him down for a loss of 5, bringing up 3rd & 18.

As I said above, this might concern me more than anything. Throughout the game, Glennon had the opportunity to make a play, but if it meant getting hit, chose instead to pull the ball back in. We've consistently seen, even throughout the winning streak, a quarterback not attempting bigger plays if there's an easy check down open instead, no matter whether or not that route has any chance of converting into fresh downs, or if there's a chance of him being hit - which would explain the 'scramble from the pocket without any obvious reason' attribute Glennon's picked up that I've pointed out the past few weeks.

I mentioned a few weeks back that I do not believe you can have sustained success when the underlying fundamentals are flawed.

Glennon did not play much worse against Carolina than he had the previous few weeks; the difference is that Carolina were able to punish the Bucs for those flaws much better than Detroit did. If those five Detroit drives that ended in turnovers instead ended in points, think how bad that game result would have looked - probably not unlike how it looked against Carolina. It's just the case that Glennon's flawed play would catch up to him sooner rather than later - and it did on Sunday.

With Marcus Mariota staying in school, it's very unlikely to find an upgrade over Glennon in the draft, and I'm now of the opinion that we shouldn't even try.

But Glennon's flaws remain, and he continues to fail to show the 'killer instinct', the desire to make plays to win, that winning QBs seem to need to posses in today's offensively high-powered NFL. I hope Glennon can show these attributes over the next four weeks, and that he continues to develop across all areas. I must also point out that Glennon did on the whole seem to improve his ball-placement, though when watching the game film it was not as big an advancement as I originally thought. Still, any development is good development.

He has four games to show that he can develop, both physically and mentally. There is, of course, every possibility that Glennon could develop considerably over the coming offseason - but I really don't think Glennon's shown enough that the team can bank on that.

I don't see how the team can NOT bring in a veteran QB to compete with Glennon. If Glennon develops, then he'll win that competition in training camp, and gain a valuable mentor, especially if it's one who's had more success in the league than Dan Orlovsky has (hey, Dominik, why not see if Schaub can be had for a late-round pick?).

If Glennon doesn't develop, then the vet QB can take over - that's not a bad thing, and it doesn't mean the end of Glennon as the starter. The Giants did the same thing with Eli Manning: when he couldn't get it done, they benched him for Kurt Warner, not to end Eli's career, but specifically in order to let him develop. If Glennon can't beat out a veteran in camp, then this could be the best thing for his long-term prospects.

One thing remains, though, and it's the same conclusion I mentioned after the Detroit game, despite the win: if Glennon remains at the same level he is now, I don't see how the Bucs can afford to hand Glennon the reins to 2014 uncontested.