When news of Mike Glennon signing with the Chicago Bears first broke in free agency, the general initial reaction wasn’t, well...kind, to say the least.
Going from Jay Cutler a.k.a. “Smoking Jay” to “Napoleon Dynamite” isn’t an easy transition for most to feel their way through. There was a palpable emotional attachment for some that will obviously take time to heal. And without a discernible upgrade or a consideration of other consequences at first glance, that expectation wasn’t supposed to change.
A quarterback who hadn’t started a game in two seasons and had sparkling gems on his highlight reel of “withstanding” pressure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn’t inspire much relative confidence. But that’s only scratching the surface. Laughing at Chicago with amusement or lamenting a signing of Glennon that seemed completely uninspiring without even having thought of all ramifications is mistaken.
This isn’t Uncle Rico and the Bears trying to throw a football over the mountain. There is rhyme and reason to Chicago’s madness as much as it’s difficult to see.
First, consider the contract structure the 27-year-old Glennon received from Chicago.
Three years and $45 million for a guy who was once benched for Josh McCown seems like an awful lot. In fact, it would paint the picture of an organization that has no idea what it’s doing in relation to the position - not necessarily news.
But that’s not how deals work in the NFL.
And lo and behold, yes, sometimes acquisitions are made with perspective. It’s all about development of a quarterback you will likely select while harboring in a veteran to be competitive. And in conjunction, it’s all about the guaranteed money, what you put on the platter in order to give yourself a failsafe to move on from a player due to injury, off-the-field issues, or more.
Even while it’s still a lucrative payday with Glennon’s lack of recent experience in mind, he technically only received one year of money guaranteed. $18.5 million, barely scraping into the second year of a deal, isn’t someone you are committing to long term. Paying a quarterback just the 22nd highest salary for passers in the league factors in too. It’s not money you give to someone you see as the answer. Far from that sentiment. General manager Ryan Pace had as much to share on this deal and ideal with his new man under center.
“We like this player. This is the value we put on him. So this what we’re willing to do,” said Pace while introducing Glennon last Friday.
Hardly a ringing endorsement of a man you believe can go to the Pro Bowl or win MVP awards. More of moving on a from 33-year-old, turnover prone quarterback in Cutler and not tying yourself to his eventual fate. Setting the rebuild deeper into motion and taking time to fill the passing void and this time, on your own accord.
It’s Pace giving himself a tunnel to dig out of after finding his young future franchise quarterback in the draft and letting him develop, like say Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, or any of the top guys in the 2017 class. Or, to a greater extreme after his plan completely capitulates and he can’t afford to have any dead money in a player like Glennon who may not turn out to be effective whatsoever. Not mortgaging his future in a low-risk, high pay-off.
A framework to seamlessly insert a passer who isn’t ready right way or a back-up plan by a personnel evaluator, in essence. A novel concept to be prepared and have a safety net and set a structure.
Glennon, like it or not - regardless of whether the concept has any actual basis - is the Bears’ “bridge” quarterback. The guy they plan on playing to field an effective team (who they believe is an upgrade over their previous starters in 2016), while they pick a raw quarterback high in this year’s draft, either in the first or second round.
However Chicago’s evaluation goes, the plan isn’t to throw someone immediately into the fire. With that in mind, they’re doing their homework and due diligence, don’t worry. It’s in thinking that Glennon will at least be average to field a competitive team with other talent being allowed to flourish, while a young passer marinates and becomes the envisioned face of the franchise. None of the future put on hold for a guy with a 84.6 passer rating and just 630 career passing attempts, as “tempting” as it sounds.
Selecting and developing a passer is an inexact science no one has ever or will ever likely completely nail down. The Bears in that respect, have elected to take the patient route versus letting someone learn and have growing pains immediately. Whether that’s a reflection of a proposed weaker quarterback class, that’s a different story.
“If we can address some of our bigger needs, it opens us to draft the best player available,” said Pace of plans on drafting a quarterback after adding Glennon.
Make no mistake either: The Bears’ top need is quarterback, that’s not up for debate.
But whether the Bears subject themselves to take one at third overall, will be a different story. No general manager always goes best player available, even Pace. There’s no way to predict his thought process. Sometimes the best available doesn’t fit what you have in mind. It’s an ideal sold on a false concept of never going for need. And Pace isn’t buying that on the market. It won’t be a standard he always follows, as none of his peers do it either.
Either way, you can expect a highly touted quarterback to back up Glennon and push him in competition. Predicting where he’ll come in the probable high rounds with Pace is akin to cashing in on a lottery ticket, though.
But hey, as a reminder, the Bears still like Glennon’s skills. Throwing skills, leadership skills, athletic skills. Teams always like quarterbacks with skills.
“He’s got all the traits you want. I’m just happy we have him,” glossed an always ecstatic Pace about Glennon.
If Pace was ever displeased with a move he made, he wouldn’t let you know, that’s for sure. The man - ever-positive - may as well be a walking dog-in-house-on-fire that only early-birds could wholly appreciate. That’s commitment to a shtick.
Signing Glennon in the first place was a telegraph of what Pace wants to enact with this franchise. So of course he’s his quarterback, and of course he’s excited. There’s still an entire process, another draft, and another year of progress to be made. Whether it works out for him, remains to be seen.
“Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback, and we’re fired up about that,” said Pace with his trademark conviction.
Until or if someone else grows up and takes the reins according to plan, forgive others if there’s a muffled energy for the time being.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.