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Bucs think Glennon might be a keeper

Black Friday came and went without the Buccaneers shopping for a quarterback.

After all, it would be hard to find a better bargain in the NFL than Mike Glennon. So many teams discounted the talent of the 6-foot-6, 225-pound rookie from N.C. State that he admits being overlooked until the third round of the draft put a chip on his shoulder pads.

"That still lights a little fire in me," Glennon, 23, said. "But I like to look at it in a positive way. I want to prove that the Bucs made the right decision. I want to do it for my coaches that believed in me and for the players on my team. Overall, it's more about proving those that believed in me right than proving those that didn't believe in me wrong."

Glennon is the toast of Tampa and talk of the NFL for being the NFC's rookie of the month. His November to remember included seven touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 70.5 and a 3-1 record.

He also leads all rookies with 13 touchdown passes — a club record — and is ninth in the league with a 91.6 passer rating.

In fact, no other player has thrown at least one touchdown pass in his first eight games.

Did the Bucs see this coming?

"When we drafted him, I can tell you (general manager) Mark Dominik and I were very, very happy where we were able to get him," coach Greg Schiano said. "We had a higher grade on him — much higher.

"He had the double whammy. He had receivers drop like 46 balls, and his offensive line struggled. So he was under duress. And I think everybody loved the physical player. But as you studied the tape and you saw the production, some it wasn't very consistent."

Even so, Schiano says the Bucs had no intention of Glennon starting this season.

"No, because we had a plan," Schiano said. "We had a plan with Josh (Freeman)."

The rest, as they say, is history. Freeman went 0-3, was released and signed by Minnesota, where he has played one game and now is the No. 3 quarterback.

The coach-quarterback relationship is one of the most important and fragile in professional sports. Schiano's unwavering support and confidence enabled Glennon to perform without the pressure that accompanies some first-year players.

"Right from the get-go, right when that decision was made, he said, 'You're our guy, and you're our guy going forward,' " Glennon said. "I knew that I had to play well. But at the same time, he was sticking with me, and that gave me confidence in myself that this team is behind me and there's no reason to worry about anything else."

Glennon's work ethic has never been in question. Long before he became the starter, he beat coaches to work and was among the last to leave.

"The guy is a football junkie," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said.

But rarely do rookies play as efficiently as Glennon. Troy Aikman had a 55.7 passer rating in 1989, when the Cowboys went 1-15. Even Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions in his 3-13 start with the Colts in 1998.

Schiano points to Glennon's intelligence (he graduated with two degrees and a 3.8 grade point average) as a big reason for his ability to retain information.

"Whether he was a football player or a lawyer or whatever, he's a very bright guy," Schiano said. "So he has the ability to process information. He just happens to be a quarterback. It's rare for a guy his age to be able to do that."

Case in point: Leading by a field goal in the fourth quarter at Detroit, Glennon was flushed out of the pocket. Rather than throw the ball away, which would have stopped the clock, he took a 7-yard sack. The decision was open to debate because it forced a longer field goal, from 50 yards, that Rian Lindell missed. But during the play, Glennon remembered when he ran out of bounds in a similar situation that nearly cost the Bucs against the Dolphins two weeks earlier. Sunday's decision enabled the Bucs to burn 40 seconds off of the clock.

"Last year, or just in college in general, I turned the ball over a little bit more," Glennon said. "Maybe I was trying to make too many plays. But now it's ingrained in me to not try to win it all on one play. I think that mind-set has helped me play, for the most part, turnover free."

Given his rate of progression, Schiano said he would be fine with having Glennon be the Bucs' starter for the long term even though they currently would own a top-five selection in a quarterback-rich draft.

"I think he still has a lot of upside," Schiano said. "That's what excites me. Physically, he's not a mature physical specimen yet. He's still a kid."

Furthermore, eight games is a small sample to determine if Glennon can go head to head in the NFC South with the Saints' Drew Brees, Falcons' Matt Ryan and Panthers' Cam Newton.

"The difference is those guys have done it over a period of time, and Mike hasn't," Schiano said. "It's all conjecture because he's got to do it. But all you can judge is what he's done.

"And so far, so good."

Some might say he has been a steal.

Bucs at Panthers

1 p.m. today, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM, 95.3-FM

Bucs think Glennon might be a keeper 11/30/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 30, 2013 11:18pm]
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