Quarterback Mike Glennon is at a very interesting point in his professional career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs benched and then cut ties with former starter Josh Freeman after Freeman’s third start of the season. Thursday night, in Tampa Bay’s 31-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Glennon made his fourth start and has now surpassed the number of starts Freeman had in Tampa this season.
Outside of Glennon’s yards-per-attempt average—and we’ve seen Glennon struggle throwing the ball deep—he’s statistically the superior quarterback to Freeman, at least he’s making more of the current situation in Tampa Bay than Freeman was able to do.
But Glennon is still only four games into his NFL career. It’s unfair to look at his current body of work and declare the rookie able or not able. He was thrust into a situation he wasn’t ready for and is now learning on the job. And the Buccaneers are giving him many opportunities to test his stuff out.
Glennon has thrown the ball at least 40 times in each of his four starts, even landing on 51 passing attempts against the Panthers. His workload set a rookie record Thursday.
Mike Glennon has 181 pass attempts in his 1st 4 games - Via @EliasSports, that's the most attempts by a QB in his 1st 4 gms in NFL history— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2013
Part of the reason Glennon is heaving the rock so much is the fact that the Buccaneers have had to play from behind a lot during his first four games as a starter. Glennon enjoyed three quarters of his first start against the Arizona Cardinals with the lead, and then his Bucs were ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles for about 12 minutes during his second start. Outside of that, Glennon has been playing catch-up.
Not only did Glennon and the Buccaneers never have the lead in his third and fourth starts against the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, respectively, they were at least a touchdown behind the majority of those two games.
Glennon’s being asked to do a lot because his team isn’t playing well. But it can also be used as an evaluation tool.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Glennon mostly lives by throwing passes under 10 yards; half his attempts come at that range, and he has a better success rate throwing left than right when throwing short.
Move Glennon’s depth farther down the field by 10 yards (10-19 yards), and he has a better success rate throwing to the middle of the field than toward the sidelines. Even 10 yards farther (20 yards or more), and Glennon’s best direction is middle or right.
It’s all this data (all 181 passes thus far) that’s giving the Tampa Bay coaching staff the tools to hone in on Glennon’s comfort zone and giving the team the ability to game-plan to the rookie passer’s strengths. But nothing has really taken off thus far. Glennon’s completion rate has been pretty close to the same for the past three weeks, as has been his yardage and quarterback rating.
It’s apparent from watching that Glennon is having trouble throwing to receivers on deep routes.
Mike Glennon's deep ball is incredibly inaccurate. It's not even close to being where it should be.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) October 18, 2013
Not only does he regularly drag receivers wide and out of bounds on deep passes, but take away his 59-yard completion for a touchdown against the Falcons where cornerback Asante Samuel played half-hearted defense on wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and Glennon’s deep numbers go from bad to miserable.
Even with Glennon’s rookie learning curve and ineffectiveness in certain aspects of his game, he’s shown upside. At 6’6” and 225 pounds, he’s got the frame of a quarterback. He’s also got a cannon for an arm. But he’s going to have to learn to properly fire that cannon if he wants to stick around as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback past the 2013 season.
Glennon’s 5.51 yards per passing attempt ranks him 32nd in the NFL, ahead of only Minnesota Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman, whose one game with the Vikings dropped him to 5.18 yards per attempt. Glennon’s sub-60 percent completion rate also needs to rise, or at least show slight incremental improvement instead of decline.
There’s one aspect of Glennon’s longevity as starting quarterback for the Buccaneers that he might not have any control over, however.
Glennon is obviously head coach Greg Schiano’s “guy.” Not only was Glennon the first quarterback Tampa Bay drafted with Schiano at the helm, but Schiano tried to get Glennon to play for him when he was the head coach at Rutgers.
Said it a million times but remember: at Rutgers Greg Schiano recruited Mike Glennon heavily out of high school.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 25, 2013
What happens if Schiano gets fired?
If Glennon doesn’t show monumental improvement, there’s a good chance a new head coach in Tampa Bay might want to go in a different direction. We saw it happen when Schiano got to town and almost instantly fell out of love with Freeman.
Freeman was never Schiano’s “guy” and that relationship soured to the point of no return. Freeman was sent packing. Not all new coach-quarterback relationships end poorly like this, but coaches like to have control over their personnel. There’s not many ways to put your own mark on a team than with a quarterback of your choosing.
What should the Bucs do at quarterback in 2014?
Glennon could make this point moot by turning things around and playing “lights out” football for the rest of the season. If he doesn’t, and Tampa Bay does indeed have a new head coach in 2014, the Buccaneers may look to a pretty strong quarterback class in the 2014 NFL draft as a way to begin rebuilding.
The way Glennon is playing right now, he’s not the long-term answer in Tampa Bay. Thus far, he’s been a below-average passer with upside. And the Bucs heard that same story for too many years with Freeman, who was an average to above-average passer with upside but was susceptible to steep peaks and valleys in his play.
If Freeman wasn’t able to win fans and the coaching staff over, why should it be expected that Glennon can? Glennon might get a pass because he’s a rookie who's been thrust into a bad situation too early, but the Tampa Bay franchise isn’t going to put rebuilding on hold to wait for Glennon.
The next nine games are “put up or shut up” for Glennon.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.