Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Glennon, Bucs feel rookie growing pains

There will be time for autopsies and alibis to determine what killed the Bucs offense and led to double-digit losses. Injuries, coaching moves and personnel decisions will be put under a microscope.

The failure will have more than one set of fingerprints, but allow me to offer up a usual suspect: the rookie quarterback.

This is not to absolve those other parties of responsibility or even to pile on Mike Glennon, whose 17 touchdowns have shattered the club mark of 10 for a rookie, a list that includes Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde and Steve Young.

But teams that start a rookie quarterback for the majority of the season typically don't finish with winning records.

This can't be emphasized enough. The Colts' Andrew Luck (11-5), the Seahawks' Russell Wilson (11-5) and the Redskins' Robert Griffin III (10-6) were aberrations last season, the likes of which we might not see for another decade or two.

Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, some teams went with rookies this year but without much success. The Jets' Geno Smith (6-8), the Bills' EJ Manuel (4-6) and Jeff Tuel (0-1) and the Raiders' Matt McGloin (1-4) combined for a .366 winning percentage. Glennon, who lost his first five starts, is 4-7 (.364).

What's more, it's no accident that three of the four worst pass offenses — Bucs, Jets and Bills — are led by rookies.

Need more evidence? The Bucs average 283.7 yards overall. The last time they averaged that few was 2006 (270.1) when — wait for it — rookie Bruce Gradkowski was at quarterback for 13 games.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the team you're on," coach Greg Schiano said.

"Rookie quarterbacks, no matter how bright they are, they may learn their system. What is different from college is the multiplicity of the defenses they see. You can show them on video. You can try to simulate it as a scout team, show team, walk-through look. But until you see it at full speed with the level of players that we see in the defenses, that's the part that can't be replicated. And I think that's where guys learn."

It would be unfair to suggest Glennon belongs in the same class as Luck, Wilson or RG3. Start with the fact he was a third-round pick. We'll also never know his upside based on his rookie year, especially given the injuries on offense to skill players including RB Doug Martin, RB Mike James, WR Mike Williams and TE Tom Crabtree.

Under the circumstances, it's hard to evaluate Glennon even after 11 starts. He has been surprisingly agile in the pocket. He could be more accurate downfield. At times, he holds onto the ball too long but, overall, has taken care of it.

The most definitive thing you can say is Glennon has played a lot like a rookie. Right now, he's learning. Winning comes later rather than sooner.

NIX NICKS? It's no surprise G Carl Nicks won't play again this season. He appeared in only two games, none after Sept. 29, due to a recurrence of MRSA and subsequent surgery on his toe. Considering K Lawrence Tynes filed a grievance against the Bucs for putting him on the nonfootball injury list instead of injured reserve after he contracted MRSA, it wasn't likely the team would ticket Nicks, 28, for injured reserve.

The Bucs paid the $31 million guaranteed from his five-year, $47.5 million over the first two seasons. Presumably, that would enable them to walk away after two years, during which Nicks played only nine games.

Worse, the team has no way of assessing what damage foot surgery and the MRSA infection have done to his game. There's a chance Tampa Bay fans have seen the last of Nicks.

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