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Mike Glennon: Set Up To Fail, Part 1

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

First, let me make something clear—I hope, sincerely, that I am wrong about Mike Glennon. I hope that when the 2017 season opens, he forces his critics to apologize to him for underestimating him. I will cheer for him to prove me wrong every time he puts on a Chicago uniform. However, I find little reason to think that Glennon is anything more than a placeholder while the Bears find their future quarterback. Worse, I think he comes into a situation seemingly designed to prevent him from being successful. IN this first part, I want to look into why I have doubts that Mike Glennon can develop into an above-average (or even average) passer in the NFL.

In 2013, Mike Glennon came in after three games, replacing Josh Freeman one week before the bye. To say that Freeman had played badly to that point is an understatement, as the man from Kansas State amassed a 59.3 passer rating and 4.25 ANY/A in his three games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being released (nobody would trade for him), Freeman signed with the Vikings and quickly faltered. The former starter finished 2013 unable to move past Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel on the depth chart.

Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay, Mike Glennon had a brief moment of glory in that he was not Josh Freeman. However, his early starts show that he rarely played better than the average quarterback that faced those offenses, and he frequently played worse. The two exceptions are his games against Seattle and Detroit.

Glennon’s First Season

Vs. Team Average Allowed Glennon
Vs. Team Average Allowed Glennon
Seattle 64.7 123.1 (+)
Buffalo 74.9 40.4 (-)
Miami 77.3 69.3 (-)
San Francisco 78.6 75.5 (-)
Arizona 80.2 55.7 (-)
Carolina 81.4 78.2 (-)
Philadelphia 83.6 84.7 (+)
New Orleans 84.4 75.2 (-)
Detroit 85 138.4 (+)
Los Angeles 94.7 78.7 (-)
Atlanta 102.4 101.3 (-)
For the majority of the season, Glennon under-performed.

The Seattle game stands out, because this performance came in an overtime loss—it’s not like he was stacking up inflated numbers due to garbage time. He played well, and while most of the drive consisted of solid play from his running backs and a defensive penalty on Earl Thomas, when he needed to step up he did so.

In other words, Glennon was better than Freeman, but two good games were the sum total of his accomplishments.

The 2014 campaign was a disaster, but it is difficult to blame Glennon, specifically, for any of it. Bears fans, in particular, should be familiar with Lovie Smith’s decision-making at quarterback, and the way the quarterback situation was handled in Tampa Bay was just bad. However, even here his average passer rating went down and he recorded a lower ANY/A than any of the Top 20 active quarterbacks in the NFL right now.

For those thinking that he clearly improved his play given his 2016 statline, it’s worth pointing out that all 11 pass attempts came against the Atlanta Falcons in the final 4 minutes of a game with a drive that opened when the score was 43-20.

There are some who believe, however, that it is possible for a quarterback to turn things around over time. Perhaps Glennon’s time on the bench has been used productively. Perhaps.

Here are the top 20 active passers in the NFL right now by ANY/A, compared with the high-water mark set by those passers in their first two seasons with at least four starts. It is possible for a quarterback to see dramatic improvement after humble beginnings, but it doesn’t happen very often.

ANY/A Progress

Player Career ANY/A High Mark Change
Player Career ANY/A High Mark Change
Aaron Rodgers 7.48 6.98 plus 0.50
Tom Brady 7.09 5.54 plus 1.55
Tony Romo 7.03 7.19 -0.16
Russell Wilson 7.01 7.1 -0.09
Drew Brees 6.91 4.95 plus 1.96
Kirk Cousins 6.88 7.14 -0.26
Philip Rivers 6.84 6.73 plus 0.11
Matt Ryan 6.71 7.01 -0.3
Ben Roethlisberger 6.67 7.53 -0.86
Matt Schaub 6.45 6.81 -0.36
Andrew Luck 6.29 6.06 plus 0.23
Andy Dalton 6.27 5.68 plus 0.59
Carson Palmer 6.24 7.26 -1.02
Cam Newton 6.12 6.65 -0.53
Matthew Stafford 6.1 6.98 -0.88
Derek Carr 6.08 6.22 -0.14
Colin Kapernick 6.07 6.65 -0.58
Eli Manning 5.96 5.63 plus 0.33
Jay Cutler 5.88 6.3 -0.42
Joe Flacco 5.75 6.12 -0.37
Mike Glennon 5.28 5.74 -0.46
The “high mark” indicates the higher ANY/A recorded in the first two years of becoming a regular starter in the NFL

It is possible that Glennon might have been able to develop into a solid mid-tier quarterback had things gone differently for him. However, it is at least as likely that Glennon will falter as it is that he will take a step back than it is that he will manage some sort of Drew Brees-like leap forward.

Some of the reason I say this, however, has nothing to do with the quality of the player at quarterback himself. Instead, it has to do with the situation that he will be stepping in to. I want to save that analysis for next week, however.

For now, though, I want your opinions. Am I selling Glennon short? If you think I am, please provide a reason below.

*Most stats come from Pro Football Reference, including the list of “active” quarterbacks. Information on opponent passer rating comes from Sporting Charts.