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GLENNON'S CHANCE TO PROVE 'EM RIGHT

He was chosen to start ahead of Russell Wilson at North Carolina State. Coaches who had all three players in college told NFL scouts he had a bigger upside in the pocket than the Seahawks quarterback and Matt Ryan, a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback with the Falcons.

If Mike Glennon lives up to that kind of predraft hype, the Bucs have hope.

There has been a lot of excitement in the locker room and front office at One Buc Place after Glennon passed for 302 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 upset of the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week. His fourth-quarter heroics - leading the team 46 yards with no timeouts for the winning 5-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson - was the flash point for all the possibilities.

In 15 games, Glennon has completed just under 60 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Mentally, Glennon is advanced for a second-year player at his position. He also has shown some poise beyond his years.

"I noticed it even when he got pushed into it last year," Jackson said. "He was prepared. He had that look in his eye like, 'Hey, I studied hard, I worked hard on the mechanics of playing quarterback.' Obviously, in this league, that means learning our playbook and our system.

"This year, with another year under his belt, the coaching staff has done a great job with him, and he's put in the time and effort. If you work hard at your craft, you should be able to step out there on that field and feel confident. That's what you see in Mike. He sees what the defense is, he's a lot more confident with his reads, he's trusting players around him and he's playing aggressive. It's fun to play with him."

Now back to those comparisons. Tom O'Brien was the coach at Boston College when Ryan (2005-07) was there and was coach at N.C. State when Glennon (2009-12) and Wilson (2008-10) were there. He made the decision to go with Glennon over Wilson in 2011 (and might want that one back). Wilson, who was playing pro baseball in the minors at the time, transferred to Wisconsin before the 2011 season for his senior year and became the third-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012. You can call him Super Bowl champion.

Ryan holds nearly every Falcons passing record and in 2012 led his team to the NFC Championship game before losing to the 49ers.

That's some elite company, and it seems unlikely Glennon will ascend to their level in the NFL. But surrounded with the right supporting cast, he could be a consistent winner.

"He's decent right now," said former Bucs quarterback Shaun King, now an NFL analyst for NBC Sports. "I think he can be a middle-of-the-road starter in this league. But if you ever want to win big, you would have to surround him with really elite talent.

"His problem is if you grade him on a scale of 1-10 in every category for quarterbacks - accuracy, arm strength, mobility, instincts, toughness and smarts - his highest grade is probably a 7 in instincts and smarts. There's nothing above a 6 in any other category."

Saints coach Sean Payton studied Glennon two years ago when he entered the draft and said he also liked what he saw of him last season.

"I think he's got good arm strength, and I think he also understands the scheme and where he wants to go," Payton said. "His location down the field in last week's game was outstanding, even on one (pass) that was ruled out of bounds. He's someone that, athletically, can get set and get rid of the football, even in pressure situations with maybe an unblocked player or a defensive blitz.

"He seems poised, and he's able to locate and target where he wants to go with it. He certainly has the arm; he's got the range. We felt like, in his rookie year, he played very well last year when we saw the film and studied him."

The word around One Buc Place is with Glennon, the coaches and front office are "breathing easier."

WHAT OF McCOWN? Josh McCown was the first off the bench to greet Glennon with a chest bump last week following the winning touchdown. But it's unknown when he can return to the field. After going 0-3 as a starter, he's dealing with a torn ligament in his right thumb that has been slow to heal and might require surgery. When asked if he would need to go under the knife, McCown remained optimistic: "You never say never so you don't know. But we're hopeful. We'll see how it goes. ... You hope you wake up and feel better. Really, it's week to week, and as a player you treat it as day to day."

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