The Chicago Bears & Mike Glennon: Smooth Move or Lost Their Groove?

By Ha Kung Wong 

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

The Chicago Bears are in a tough spot.

Reports are that the Bears are having a hard time getting players to sign with them because of the perceived instability in the organization as well as their inability to recently win games.  Heck, they had to severely overpay to get a third-rate WR to join after losing Alshon Jeffery to free agency.

So, in some ways, that explains why the Bears had to over-pay for QB Mike Glennon, even through he essentially had no other legitimate suitors.

Well, it’s a done deal now, as Brian Hoyer has left for San Francisco and the Bears released Jay Cutler, so Glennon, a guy who’s attempted only 11 passes in the last 2 years, is now the starting QB for the Chicago Bears, and they’re “fired up” about it.

The big question remaining on the table is are they right to be “fired up” about this or is this going to be another Brock Osweiler situation?

Well, the good news is that Glennon’s deal isn’t nearly as restrictive as Osweiler’s in that Glennon’s three-year, $45M deal includes $18.5M guaranteed, but $16 million of those guarantees are in 2017.  Thus, after 2017, Glennon’s only guaranteed money is a $2.5M roster bonus due in the 2018 offseason.  Since Glennon only got a “small” $3M signing bonus, the Bears could cut him without much issue after one year.  And, in case you were wondering, there 22 QBs right now who have deals for 2017 averaging more than $16M per year.  So, in actuality, you can think of Glennon as reasonably priced one year rental with an option to buy, pending performance.  At just 27, Glennon still has room to grow if he’s successful in the Bears system.

Regardless, it seems pretty clear that the Bears will continue to look for a QB long term solution in the Draft, perhaps using their 3rd overall pick, since there’s no longer any urgency to throw a rookie under center immediately, but there’s also flexibility to wait it out.  So getting Glennon, although at a relatively high single season price, was potentially a good idea in terms of looking towards the future.

With that out of the way, the remaining question is whether Glennon could actually be the answer right away in 2017, and not just a bridge QB for the future.  That’s a much more difficult question to answer, but let’s take a look and give it a shot.

Is Mike Glennon a Good NFL Quarterback?

Glennon hasn’t played many snaps over the last two years, but he did have some signs of potential in his first two years with the Buccaneers.

Over 19 games (18 starts) he did average about 212 passing yards, 1.5 TDs and 0.78 INTs per game.  Nothing to write home about, but Alex Smith has been successful in Kansas City with similar averages of about 222 passing yards, 1.2 TDs and 0.46 INTs per game, making the playoffs in 3 of his 4 years.  And isn’t that the point?  Finding someone who can run the offense and get you to the playoffs with a chance to win?

And Glennon did demonstrate some game changing ability, as he managed 3 game winning drives over his 19 games with the Bucs.

But is he better than just keeping Cutler around for another year?  Well, let’s compare the per game career stats from Cutler, Glennon, and, as a control, Smith.

Looks pretty similar, except for the fact that Cutler almost had a half INT more than Glennon per game, whereas Smith was almost the same as Glennon.  A half INT per game can mean an extra drive per game, which could be particularly important for a Bears team that lost 6 games in 2016 by less than one score.  9-7 is a much better record that 3-13, seeing as how the Lions actually made the playoffs out of the NFC North with a 9-7 record.

And it’s not just me being optimistic because I’m being a homer, as one pro scouting director for an NFC team mentioned:

“[Glennon’s] tape is actually pretty good. He’s accurate and has good arm strength. He’s still a guy that’s going to need playmakers around him, but after watching him, he’ll be more ready to step in and play than any rookie. I’d put him just below the Andy Dalton [class of quarterback].”

Will Glennon turn the Bears around being a decent game manager in the mode of Alex Smith or Andy Dalton?  A lot will depend on what happens on defense, as that’s something the Chiefs had that the Bears did not.  But let’s take a look at what will need to happen with the Bears in 2017 to give him a chance.

Keys to Success for Glennon

Give Glennon Solid Receiving Options

With Alshon Jeffery gone and Eddie Royal likely to be released, the Bears are turning to unproven and oft-injured Kevin White and second year breakout Cameron Meredith as their primary receiving options.  At least they went out and got a little help in the form of former Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright and former Pittsburgh Steelers WR Markus Wheaton.

Wright was a former first round pick in 2012 and did have a 1000+ receiving yard season in 2013, so there’s still hope he can be a significant contributor.  But honestly, no one has any idea how Kevin White, Cameron Meredith, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton will fit together on the field, and none of them have shown much.  Adding Dion Sims from the Dolphins, essentially a blocking TE, for a whopping $18M three-year deal to a perpetually injured TE Zach Miller doesn’t necessarily make things any better.

Keep Downs Manageable

Clearly, 3rd and short is better than 3rd and long.  But for Glennon, it’s even more important.

Not including 4th down attempts, Glennon has been at his worst in 3rd down and 7-9 yard (59.4 passer rating) and 3rd down and 10+ yard (64.5 passer rating) situations.  That, on its own, isn’t terribly surprising.  Many QBs struggle on 3rd down.  But what’s interesting is that Glennon’s passer rating increases to a relatively gaudy 93.3 when he’s in 3rd down and 4-6 yard situations.  What this means is that to maximize Glennon’s efficiency on long drives, the Bears need to keep him out of 3rd down and 7+ yard situations.

Thankfully for the Bears, they have just the solution.  And that solution is called Jordan Howard.  Playing in 15 games as a rookie, but starting in just 13 of them, Howard managed to amass 1,313 rushing yards (good for second most in the NFL), 298 receiving yards and 7 total TDs.  He also had the 4th most yards per carry (5.2) and 3rd most rushing yards per game in the NFL last season (87.5) and made the Pro Bowl.  Most importantly, Howard averaged 5.99 yards on 1st and 10 situations, the best among RBs in the NFL last season, which is going to go a long way to keeping Glennon in manageable yardage.

Assuming they can keep Howard rolling, and keep Glennon out of 3rd and 7+ yard situations, there’s some hope for a consistent offense.

Take Pressure Off the Offense with the Defense

The Bears had a mid to low quality defense in 2016, allowing the 8th most points per game (24.9) and the 6th most rush yards (121.9), but the 7th least passing yards (224.9).  They also had the least number of takeaways of any team in the NFL (11).  Clearly, improvement will be important to take pressure off the offense.

Adding SS Quintin Demps from the Texans, CB Marcus Cooper from the Cardinals and CB Prince Amukamara from the Jaguars is a good start, but there’s still plenty of work to do in free agency and the draft.  If the defense can tighten up and, in particular, limit scoring, the Bears won’t have to abandon the run and risk putting Glennon in inefficient down and distance situations.

***

If nothing else, Glennon is saying all the right things about his new teammates after getting to Chicago:

“I think the guy that stood out to me was Cameron Meredith.  That guy was making a lot of plays throughout the course of the season. … Kevin White, you see the potential. The first thing that jumps out to me was that catch he had against Dallas on that go route.  And Zach Miller’s made a lot of plays, who was another teammate of mine in Tampa; we were in camp together my rookie year. And the running backs … I mean, Jordan Howard’s a rookie that goes to the Pro Bowl. Jeremy Langford had success in the NFL. There are a lot of guys on this team that I think that can be big-time playmakers for us.”

But whether this adds up to winning combination or not is yet to be seen.  However, no matter how you feel about the actual signing, the potential is there for Glennon and the Bears.

And perhaps this signing was better than we all think.

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