Bucs' Glennon needs more 'aha' not 'uh-oh'

Mike Glennon has three more games to convince the Bucs that he can provide enough big moments in the future to keep pace with NFC South opponents.
Mike Glennon has three more games to convince the Bucs that he can provide enough big moments in the future to keep pace with NFC South opponents.
Published Dec. 12, 2013


Mike Glennon turns 24 years old today.

A year ago at this time, he was getting ready to play Vanderbilt in something called the Music City Bowl. He will make his 11th NFL start on Sunday.

This is all to say that at that young age with that little experience, the Bucs rookie quarterback is not going to play like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Asking him to win a Super Bowl or play in a Pro Bowl at this point is asking too much, especially when you see some of the used parts he has around him.

But if the Bucs are going to settle on Glennon as their franchise quarterback, we need to see more than we've seen so far.

This Sunday, against an elite team such as the 49ers, would be a good place to start.

Specifically, we need to see that "aha" moment: That play or that throw or that two-minute drive to let you know the kid has what it takes to be a big-time NFL quarterback.

We need to see that game where he slices defenses up and down the field. We need to see him win a wild shootout by throwing for 370 yards and four scores.

Forget being a game manager. He needs to be a game changer.

Because that's what it takes for teams to be successful in today's NFL and, in particular, the NFC South.

New Orleans has Drew Brees. Atlanta has Matt Ryan. Carolina has Cam Newton. These guys don't play football. They play video games. You don't beat them 14-10. You beat them by scoring 30 points, 40 points. And to score that many, you need a quarterback who can match them throw for throw, scoring drive for scoring drive.

And so far, Glennon has not shown that.

Part of that might be because the Bucs offense is missing key parts, such as running back Doug Martin, wide receiver Mike Williams, guard Carl Nicks and anyone that even resembles a slot receiver. Some of it might be a conservative game plan that pays more attention to not making mistakes than making plays. Part of it might be that a third-round draft pick just can't immediately come in and grab the league by the tail.

Maybe it's not fair to judge Glennon this soon, but the problem for the Bucs is time is not on their side. There are only three games left in this season. After that, the Bucs must decide whether Glennon is the man or they look for someone else, whether it's a rookie in the draft or a veteran in free agency.

"I'm pleased with his progress," Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said, "and we just have to keep moving him on that trajectory."

There's no denying Glennon has a big-time arm. His first-to-arrive-last-to-leave work ethic is exemplary. He has never had the deer-in-the-headlights look. He has been behind center for four victories in the past five games.

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All in all, if you look at the entire body of work, he hasn't been bad. A couple of games, you might even say he was good. But good isn't good enough in today's NFL.

Unless you have an elite defense, your quarterback has to be great. In fact, when you think about it, a "good" quarterback might be the worst thing you can have. A good quarterback can fool a team into thinking it can win with him, only to learn, at the worst possible time, that he can only take you so far.

The Bucs claim Glennon has shown flashes of greatness: a drive here, a throw there. Plus, we only see him in games.

"Well, there's a lot of those moments that he makes plays that you go, 'Wow, yeah, that's what I'm talking about,' " Schiano said.

Many of those moments, Schiano admits, have come in practice, when the routes are perfect, the pass rush is gentle, the secondary is air and the stakes are nonexistent.

But the past couple of weeks, as the defenses have gotten tougher and the scouting reports on him have grown thicker, Glennon's game has regressed in the only place it really counts: games.

He bottomed out Sunday against Buffalo, throwing for a measly 90 yards, with 70 coming on one drive. He has been beaten up physically and mentally, so much so that he was told to take a day off.

"You wish there was a magic button you could push and, poof, instantly he's got it and he's grown and he has it all together," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "While there may be some setbacks and some decisions he'd like to have back … at the end of the day, I think the arrow continues to go up with him."

Per orders from Schiano to get rest, Glennon didn't set an alarm Tuesday morning. He slept in. Cleaned his apartment. Sat around. But by Tuesday afternoon, he couldn't stand it anymore. He went to work to study the 49ers defense.

Don't feel bad for him for punching a clock on his day off.

"It's a dream come true,'' Glennon said. "It's awesome. Millions of kids across the country are dreaming of what I'm doing right now, so it's as good of a job as there is out there."

Give the kid this much: As hard as he has worked to get his dream job, he's working even harder to keep it.

"I'm definitely more comfortable," he said, "but there's going to be learning every week because, like I say, there's always something new."

Glennon seems like a nice young man. It would be great for everyone, mostly the Bucs, to see him succeed.

But he needs to do more. He needs to show more. He needs to be more.

Time is running out.

Tom Jones can be reached at or (727) 893-8544 and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.