The Mind of a Bears QB

Mike Glennon has received quite a bit of criticism lately and not all of it is out of line. Glennon is slow and he has a slower release. Those qualities alone limit exactly how much of a difference maker Glennon can be. But for all the vitriol currently surrounding the embattled QB there is hope for an ascension. You'll read some baseline information and then get a bigger picture afterwards.

Mike Glennon was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL draft (73rd overall). He was the 3rd quarterback taken behind EJ Manuel and Geno Smith (what a year!) He ended up winning the starting job over Josh Freeman. He's listed at 6'7, had a 4.94 40 time, 7.49 cone, and a Wonderlic score of 26 (equivalent to the average score of an Electronics Technician). For Reference, Trubisky had a Trubisky is listed at 6'2 witha 4.67 40, 6.87 3 cone, and a Wonderlic score of 25 (equivalent to the average score of a Salesperson). Some wonderlick scores for reference...

(I'll post a more complete list below)

There are a few notable QB's with low scores but good ones are more rare when looking at the full list. (Rothlisberger 25, Pennington 25, Favre 22, Culpepper 18, Testaverde 17, Bradshaw 15 (where's Rob Riggle when you need him?), Marino 16, McNair 15, McNabb 14)

As you can see, the wonderlic for both Trubisky and Glennon is below other players who have had success. The wonderlic, while not perfect, does give a general idea of IQ. For some positions that is more important than others. For the quarterback position it is relatively important. Obviously it isn't the only factor as one needs the physical skills to be able to actually throw the right passes once they are identified. Blaine Gabbert scored a 42. Tom Brady scored a 33. Peyton Manning scored a 28 (equivalent to the average accountant or reporter). Jay Cutler was a 26.

One main criticism of Glennon is that he locks on. Splitting a hair, it seems he more often progresses slowly. Most likely, the wonderlic score correlates with this. What you are looking at is IQ. If you were talking about a computer, you would be discussing the processor. There are other factors that make a computer's intelligence (RAM, hard drive space, etc.) While science has discovered people can memorize and shift responsibility to the basal ganglia (for habits) to help people with training process information faster, IQ remains the same (or decreases with brain damage). Jay Cutler, also accused of locking on, had the same wonderlic score as Glennon.

When people talk about a player needing "practice" they are talking about training the basal ganglia. This is important because the IQ part of the brain (generaly the frontal cortex) can only process so much information at once. Having habits developed in the basal ganglia frees the frontal cortex. This would be equivalent to using a GPU instead of CPU for some processing (often seen in bitcoin mining). When you hear about players playing fast and not having to think, you are talking about the Basal Ganglia taking over. It's located at the base of the spine so the neural signals don't have to travel as far and it's quicker as a result.

The Basal Ganglia giveth but also taketh away. As much as you can offload good habits to it, it can also pick up bad habits. Once this area of the brain learns, it is difficult to unlearn (as anyone who has tried to break a bad habit can tell you). It doesn't help to necessarily start before the good habits are well solidified. You can ask Glennon, who started week 4 of his rookie year, about his habit of not moving past his receivers quickly. The basal ganglia is also located close to the emotional centers of the brain and tends not too work as well when feeling strong emotions.

Players also have the advantage of a pre-snap read. IQ doesn't have too much to do with this because it happens at a slower pace. IQ is very important after the snap because there is a time crunch. The more mental work that can be done prior to the snap the less work, needs to be done after the snap. As I mentioned, Manning scored a 28 which isn't dumb but also isn't on the high end. Manning was great pre-snap and that helped make up for a somewhat deficient IQ as far as quarterbacks are concerned. This may be more akin to having great spreadsheets saved in the hard drive. Playing experience tends to help this but it can also be learned from the sidelines looking at shots. Another way this can help is to read the field in halves, eliminate one half of the field pre-snap (or certain players in the progression), and then you need to only look at half the field.

You should have a general understanding then of why IQ is important for an NFL QB along with ways. As you can see, there are ways to overcome a relatively lower IQ from the QB position.

Another thing to keep in mind is that NFL offenses generally have a progression one goes through. It's another way to cut down on thinking. They are generally instructed to just read "NO" and to hit a throw they think is open as soon as they see it (not even looking at other routes). The reason they do this is because you can't go back to it. You can't say 1. is a no, 2 is a maybe but 3 might be bigger, 3 is a no... let's go back to 2. It won't work.

I should also point out that, unless a player is able to clear their mind in big moments, a low wonderlic score could mean choking in big moments (as tended to happen with Jay Cutler). The extra "thinking" going on in these big moments means all the information they need to process is held up as other things are processing. Think about running an antivirus scan in the background as you try to use your computer... not a great experience right? We may have seen this effect Glennon the entirety of the last game as he played his former team.

This brings me back to where Glennon and Trubisky are at this moment, and what is best for them.

Mike Glennon would benefit quite a bit from getting it in his Basal Ganglia that "maybe"="no". He gets these reads that are not a clear "NO" and that is where he has trouble. This means if he does look off, his throw is late. It means if he doesn't look off... HIS THROW IS LATE. Either way, it proves to be way too much for him to process when it's a close call. He just doesn't have a high enough IQ. If this results in more throw-aways or dump offs (I know people will groan) then so be it. He'll be a much better quarterback if he can get more automatic with those "gray area" reads and just say NO! He needs to move reading "open" to the basal ganglia. In truth, it probably will not result in more throw aways or dump offs as people have pointed out wide open receivers he missed while tossing to those "kinda" open routes.

Complicating the matter is this being a new offense for Glennon, Trubisky cutting into his reps, receivers changing on him week to week... and his foot speed. In other words, less is being offloaded to other areas of his brain. Plus, he can't buy time to process things. This is another reason you see him struggle in a "dirty" pocket... it's more to process in his brain... and he lacks the ability to buy time. It probably doesn't help that he's feeling extra pressure from Trubisky.

Moving on to Trubisky, who seems to have a slightly lower IQ. Trubisky did great in the first preseason game. He also really didn't show great progress from where he was in college. His success under center came with designed rollouts which cut the field/read in half. The rest was from a shotgun, and had mechanics he already had stored in his basil ganglia in college. You might think he read the field well but he went against a vanilla defense (which requires less processing). He was challenged more in the third preseason games... he saw a few straight drop backs. He saw more confusing overages and pre-snap reads. He tripped over his own feet. he threw the ball into the hands of the other team. He was letting the play clock expire. He wasn't calling out the mike. It gave a more accurate representation of where he would be if he started a regular season game.

It also shows the wisdom of the current path for Mitchell Trubisky. The more he can offload some of the though process to the basal ganglia. Namely, his footwork on those drop backs seem like they would be helpful to him. he can get more used to calling out the protections and looking at what he can figure out pre-snap looking at the plays Glennon is running. He can learn from Glennon's mistakes. Trubisky does benefit from the ability to buy time to process with his legs (many of the lower wonderlic score QB's had decent mobility). That said, one does not want him to have the habit of taking off prematurely as other running quarterbacks have done (stunting their development).

I would also say that both quarterbacks would benefit from emotional awareness training to help clear out any clutter they may experience from emotional moments. They just don't have a good enough IQ to overcome the extra thought processes.

As is, both quarterbacks have a great opportunity to ascend. Mike Glennon probably needs to meditate and focus on seeing "maybe" as "no". Trubisky needs more time to develop these areas of his brain that will help him process things more smoothly once he plays. He is probably as frustrated as everyone else but the mind grows at its own pace (just like muscles). It's a biological process.

The fact of the matter is, IQ is functionally every bit of a limit as someone's speed. IQ doesn't get faster. It is a limitation one must work around.

*Please note that this is written knowing that the wonderlic has its shortcomings. I personally would love to see players' minds tested more thoroughly with various better instruments that have been developed over the years.

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This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.