Don’t tell Greg Schiano it’s too early to make a change. On Wednesday, three days after a 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots that sunk his Buccaneers to 0-3 and to the bottom of the NFC South, Schiano benched longtime quarterback Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. The decision was met with criticism, ranging from the usual “it’s too early to make a change” to “HE’S LOST THE TEAM!” to ‘”Mike Glennon, really?”
The most important of those questions is about Glennon. Who is he and what does he offer to the sputtering offense that Freeman didn’t?
Well, he was North Carolina State’s starting quarterback the last two years before being selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was a deep-ball throwing, inconsistent passer that needed plenty of coaching. He has a very strong arm, but he doesn’t always have very good footwork. He flashes big-time talent, though he doesn’t always play with it. He has a lot of potential, but he’s streaky.
That’s the issue: he’s too streaky. He has a little bit of that Eli Manning feel to him when the younger Manning first started playing in the NFL. He will drive the ball through the chest of his receiver on one play, and then fail to make a simple out route throw on the next. It’s troubling, which is why it’s a little perplexing that Glennon is suiting up this Sunday with greater responsibilities than holding the clipboard. But I understand Schiano’s decision — it had to be done. Freeman wasn’t getting the job done and the next man up is Glennon. He has to be ready even if he’s not ready. Such is the life of a professional quarterback.
Glennon doesn’t offer a great deal of physical difference from Freeman. Like his predecessor, he has kinks in his game that need to be worked out, most notably his field vision and footwork. Next to accuracy, these two are arguably the most important at the position because they control how successful a play is.
Field vision, to begin with, is not something that frequently improves. There can be some improvements made, but they’re rarely drastic. A quarterback needs to be able to see the entire field and let plays develop. This can be improved upon by holding the ball longer and going through reads slower — obviously not too slow — which was an issue for Glennon in college. There were times when he had a clean pocket to stand in and he went through his reads too quickly, throwing a checkdown when he needed more than that. There’s no better example of this than when he played Florida State in his senior year.
Down 16-10 with less than three minutes left in the game, Glennon faced 4th-and-10 from the 36.5-yard line. He was in shotgun with an empty backfield. That meant five receiving throats, comprised of wide receivers and tight ends, were out running pass patterns. The focus here is on the two slot receivers on each side. The one to Glennon’s left will run a shallow crossing pattern underneath, while to his right, the slot will run a dig route. If he buys time in the pocket, there’s a good chance that he’d have the dig open in the center of the Seminoles’ Cover 2 defense. That would be a first down and more.
When the play begins, he takes a short one-step drop and seems uncomfortable in a clean pocket. As the play unfolds, he regains control of himself and focuses on his targets. Underneath and coming from his left is the crossing slot receiver, who cuts through the seam horizontally and gets Glennon’s attention. Glennon immediately raises his shoulder and starts to throw the ball. This is a mistake.
There’s a Seminoles defensive back playing hook responsibility inside the hash, and he’s driving downhill, expecting the throw. He’s also leaving the other slot receiver running a dig wide open. Unfazed, Glennon drives off his left foot and rifles the football to the shallow cross. At the catch point, the cornerback tackles the receiver well short of the first down.
This play is a perfect example of the lack of field vision Glennon sometimes displays. It’s not just one play either. Just check the Clemson game when he also left plays on the field. Hopefully it’s something he can improve on, otherwise he won’t be any different than Freeman was.
Another thing he can improve on is his footwork. Indirectly, it’s been the reason why many are questioning Glennon’s arm strength. Let’s make it clear right now: he has plenty of arm. He does not lack arm strength in any way. It’s his footwork that’s the problem. He doesn’t always drive the ball properly because his lead foot is inflexible, and as a result his shoulders are all funky when the ball is being delivered.
Against Clemson, this was clear on an out route to the wide side (“field”) of the field, the type of throw that scouts typically use to determine if a quarterback has enough juice.
It’s a handful of plays into the game and Glennon is in shotgun set. A split-back formation is called, meaning Glennon has a running back to both his left and right. Detached from the formation are two receiving threats to his right, and one to his left. The furthest right is a wide receiver lined up outside the far hash. He’s closer to the hash than he is the 30-yard line number for spatial purposes pertinent to his out route.
At the snap, Glennon takes a quick three-step drop and fires the ball outside. As a rule of thumb, outside throws go outside and inside throws go inside. Replay shows that this one is too far inside and would be intercepted if the defensive back had focused on it. It falls incomplete. What went wrong? Watch Glennon’s lead foot. It’s locked in, and thus there’s no flexibility at the knee. That affects his shoulders, which nearly become parallel to the ground once the ball is released, and he’s therefore zapped of arm strength on this throw.
This is something he can improve upon as well. It’s going to be difficult, as we’ve seen other passers try to clean it up (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith), but it’s not crippling in Glennon’s case. His mechanical flaw and his field vision or lack thereof are the biggest negatives on his scouting report right now. To help a skidding offense, he will have to improve on those quickly to give his team a chance to win games.
Glennon may not be ready to perform yet, though, but he has no choice. Greg Schiano said so.