Trading Mike Glennon: A Study in Empty Arguments

A bird in the hand, folks.

A bird in the hand is, well, your franchise QB.

Rumors are running rampant that the Bucs will trade 3rd-year QB Mike Glennon, either prior to the draft or on draft day. When Glennon’s detractors are pressed they spout a cursory list of “reasons” why he is not worth retaining. Allow me to detonate each false objection, in turn.

I love this line of logic best. A few mutts loudly proclaim that Glennon is a product of old-school thinking, of an age when QBs wore expensive fur coats and had nicknames like “Broadway Joe” and handlebar mustaches and never, ever posed a threat with their feet. “Look at Kaepernick and RGIII and Newton and Wilson”, they lisp. “Those guys are the wave of the future.” Well, if that’s the case, the future sorta sucks. Three of those four had 2014 seasons that ranged from crappy to just average. Wilson, of course, played very well, but here’s the deal: he’s not a true dual-threat QB. In college he played first at NC State then at Wisconsin, both pro-style schemes rather than spread-option offenses. His mobility is an undeniable asset, but he is succeeding as a pro primarily due to good decision-making and accurate pocket passing. Need more proof that the “mobility is a must” thing is hogwash? Check out this list of the top passing QBs in the NFL last season. Now find me a mobile or dual-threat or former spread-option QB anywhere near the top of that list. You’ll find exactly one: Mr. Wilson, all the way down at #15. The top guys — Brees, Roethlisberger, Luck, Manning, Ryan, Manning, Rodgers, etc. — are all pocket passers who seldom hurt teams with their legs. So wake up, already. Manning moves like he’s in thick mud. Brady takes five minutes to jog to the sidelines. Dan Marino had the escapability skills of a salted slug. Yet they’ll all be in Canton together. Mobility is overrated in pro QBs, folks, which means it’s hardly a disqualifier in the young Glennon. Indeed, Glennon’s size, intelligence and arm strength make him far more likely to join that elite list than any “mobile” QB you can name.

This one is tough to even take seriously, and I’ll tell you why: no QB in the game would have succeeded in Tampa in 2014. Read that again. The Bucs’ new offensive coordinator (Jeff Tedford) bailed after suffering heart problems, leaving an over-his-head young QB coach (Marcus Arroyo) to call plays. Then, in his first year as the Bucs GM, Licht singlehandedly cripped the offensive line by dumping vet O-linemen Penn, Zuttah and Joseph and “replacing” them with free agent OT James Collins of Cincy, C Evan Dietrich-Smith from Green Bay and OG Oniel Cousins from the Browns. In an 11th-hour panic move, he also overpaid for fading OG Logan Mankins from the Patriots. The result? The three vets he let walk all went on to play solid ball as starters for their new teams. But with the exception of Mankins, who somewhat held his own, the new OL additions collectively played worse than any NFL OL in recent memory. I’m talking deep-down, shameful, spackle-your-shoes-with-breakfast bad. Josh McCown, who looked like the second coming of Fran Tarkenton in Chicago the season prior, was a shadow of his former self in Tampa, fumbling and bumbling his way to losses as he literally ran for his life after each snap. Glennon, once again asked to be the savior as he was in his rookie season, fared little better. Like I say: It was the Oline, folks, not QB play. Still doubt it? Then Google up some articles on Tom Brady from early last season. The Patriots Oline was in disarray after the loss of Mankins and repeatedly exposed their QB to pressure and sacks, yet it was Brady — yes, the future Hall-of-Fame QB — who was labeled “washed up” and blamed for the anemic Patriots’ passing game by everyone from the media to the fans. In the end the Pats patched up their Oline and, given adequate time in the pocket, Brady went from goat to hero, lighting up opposing defenses and winning yet another Super Bowl. Ya see, it’s not rocket science, folks. Skill play matters but in the end you still win and lose up front…and the Bucs’ flinch-inducing Oline play was the primary cause behind a forgettable season. Not the QBs.

This one was pulled straight out of someone’s keester followed by a popping noise. I watched Mike Glennon as a college player and he was very impressive, displaying all of the qualities of a special QB talent: intelligence, the ability to scan multiple targets and make the right decision quickly, a quick release, great length, a big-time arm, vocal leadership in the huddle, an understand of when to rip a throw and when to use touch, anticipation on timing routes, a calm demeanor, the ability to read defenses and check down pre-snap, etc. So what happened, you say? As detailed above, last season was a throwaway due to upchuck-worthy Oline play. In 2013, however—Glennon’s rookie campaign—O-line play was, well, average. Yet behind that average line and in an offense riddled with injuries at the skill spots Glennon stepped into the breach and threw for 19 TDs and only 9 picks. How do those numbers compare to what the league’s “franchise-caliber guys” did as rookies, most of them surrounded by far better talent? Well, I won’t bore you with the numbers, so let me just say this: Glennon’s rookie TD-to-INT ration is better, and in most cases FAR better, than the first-year production of guys like Brees and Manning and Brady and Luck and Roethlisberger and Ryan and River, etc. Don’t believe me? Look it up. While compiling those impressive stats he also:

• made the All Rookie team
• set the franchise record for passing yards by a rookie
• had an 87% completion rate vs. Atlanta (11/17), the second-best single-game mark in the NFL that season and second highest in team history
• set a Buccaneers rookie single-game record with a passer rating of 138.4 against a solid Lions’ defense
• was the first rookie in team history to throw a touchdown in eight consecutive games, also marking the longest streak by a rookie in the NFL since 2012 (Russell Wilson)
• was the first rookie in NFL history to throw for a touchdown in his first eight starts
• was one of only two rookies in NFL history to post two games with a passer rating of 137 or higher

I could go on, but you get the idea. Those are the stats of a special if not elite talent, especially given context. So why the lack of love for the kid? I suspect two things: 1) he’s pretty goofy looking and many fans want a dashing, endorsement-worthy guy at QB and 2) he is being blamed for the team’s losing ways because most fans don’t dig deep enough to understand where the true problems lie.

Do I think the Bucs should keep Glennon and give him a shot to start? Bet your ass I do. In fact, the only reason why I’d understand Licht and Lovie trading him is if new OC Koetter plans to tailor a scheme around the skills of a mobile QB (read: Marcus Mariota). If that’s the case it would make little sense to keep two QBs with radically different profiles since you want a good fit for the given approach and redundancy at the critical QB spot. If mobility in his QBs matters to Koetter, I could see them trading Glennon to a team like the Browns in exchange for a guy like Johnny Manziel (to act as Mariota’s backup). But as I noted above, that would be ignoring a simple, proven fact: pocket passers rule the day in the modern NFL. And Glennon is a prototypical young pocket passer, folks — one who will succeed as a starter in Tampa Bay, or elsewhere.

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