Listen, I know that the Chicago Bears won on Sunday. I know that beating a team the calibre of the six-time World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers is something to celebrate. I know that Mike Glennon, officially, led that charge to drive down the field and score in overtime. I know. Despite all of that knowledge, though, it’s hard to argue the case for Glennon continuing to be under center for the Chicago Bears. Prior to this game, Mike Glennon had not won a game since his rookie season in 2013; even considering that his former team was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that’s a poor showing for someone considered to be (not to mention paid to be) the saviour of the franchise.
O Captain! My Captain!
The Bears brass and players alike saw promise in Glennon, even voting him a team captain during the preseason. Bold move for an unproven entity. Despite my misgivings, though, he is still a captain and so deserves all of the respect and regard of that rank. This is why I shall henceforth be referring to Mike Glennon by his official title, Captain Checkdown.
Through the first three games of the season, Glennon has truly earned his stripes. To date, Captain Checkdown has completed 72 of his 107 attempted passes; that’s 67% of passes reaching the hands of eligible receivers. To compare, Patriots QB Tom Brady is 71 of 110 (65%). On paper, that makes Glennon sound incredible but when you add in the reality that Brady’s average yards per completion is 15.3 it tells a very different story, juxtaposed with the Captain’s 8.5 yards per completion. It might be unfair to compare Mike Glennon to, arguably, the greatest QB in the game today but considering they will earn the same $14 million in 2017, it’s difficult not to. What makes the comparison fair, though, is that Brady has the same mediocre calibre of wide receiver as Glennon at his disposal but where Brady will opt for the most viable of targets, Glennon will target the short, safe route almost every time. During Sunday’s victory, Captain Checkdown targeted running backs 13 times, tight ends 4 times and wide receivers 4 times. To “Cap.” it off, not a single wide receiver was targeted in the first half. An NFL team cannot function this way. Captain Checkdown does as little as he possibly can to exit the game with a W. It’s no wonder Jordan Howard is hurt so frequently; he has to carry his quarterback for whole games, in addition to the football.
Need to watch the tape
There was certainly enough evidence to bench Mike Glennon following back-to-back losses against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, respectively, in weeks 1 & 2. Following the 29-7 trudging to the Buccaneers, Head Coach John Fox stated that he didn’t “think anybody without even seeing the tape yet can pin that on the quarterback. Everybody had their hand in that.” While it’s true that the rest of the Chicago Bears team played their part in throwing the game away, the starting quarterback, who by any definition of the position is the leader of the team, played the biggest part in not getting it done on the field. Granted, Fox made these comments before going back and analysing the play of his signal-caller but in the days, now weeks, subsequent he will have had opportunity to immerse himself in the performance, so why even now does John Fox believe that Captain Checkdown is the answer for the Bears?
In the two main opportunities to score during the Tampa Bay game, Glennon threw easy, avoidable interceptions. The first came late in the first quarter as Glennon was doing what he does, passing short to tight end Dion Sims on a quick comeback. The Captain was so focussed on his intended target that not only did he make it clear to defenders where the play was going but also completely overlooked linebacker Kwon Alexander dropping out to cover Sims. Linebackers dropping into coverage to cover tight ends is a fairly common practise in all levels of football and Kwon Alexander just happens to be one of the best at doing so. It will have been in the Bears’ scouting report; throwing this interception is indefensible for a ‘veteran’ like Glennon.
The second and most inexcusable of the errors came with just over four minutes left in the first half. While down 17 points, the game was not totally out of hand at this point and so Captain Checkdown took it upon himself to rectify that situation. With wide receiver Josh Bellamy running a classic out route, Glennon threw the ball underneath the route where cornerback Robert McClain had been waiting for the duration of the play. It was an easy interception and McClain took it to the house. Had Glennon identified the underneath coverage and placed the ball over the top, Bellamy had a good deal of open space downfield to make the most of the opportunity.
If paying a lot of money for interceptions was what the Chicago Bears wanted, they could have just stuck with Jay Cutler.
It’s time for Trubisky
Sticking with Glennon may have been forgivable were there not another option. If the choice were Mike Glennon or A.N. Other journeyman quarterback, I could understand the reluctance to make a change. These are not the situations the Bears are in, though, and there’s an extremely promising better choice waiting in the wings.
Mitchell Trubisky was drafted second overall in this year’s draft. He didn’t come cheap. The Bears gave up a number of picks to move up one position and take him at no. 2. It appears that this cost may have clouded some judgements at Halas Hall. The Chicago Bears have become those protective parents that don’t want their child to play in case he gets hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I see the logic in holding out a rookie until they’re ready, especially if you’re throwing them to the wolves in terms of the protection they’ll receive from the offensive line but that isn’t what’s happening here. Da Bears were tied for the seventh fewest sacks received last season and ranked in Football Outsiders’ top ten run-blocking units.
Glennon has been sacked seven times thus far in regular season play. That is more than the NFL average but considering how statuesque he is in the pocket, the blame is placed more on him that his offensive line. During the preseason, Trubisky demonstrated his ability to move around the pocket and escape from unabated blitzers. Trubisky is able to react far better to a free runner compared to Glennon. Trubisky calmly rolls out of the pocket and places the ball out of bounds. Glennon, by comparison, freezes up and folds, suffering a sack.
Trubisky can actually go deep, too. Consider the pass that came in the Bears’ preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. It wasn’t against their starting defence, by any means, but it does demonstrate Trubisky’s ability to find the open receiver and put the ball into his hands no matter where he is on the field.
During a stellar preseason, Trubisky completed 68% of his passes for a total of 364 yards over 4 games. These numbers are comparable with Glennon’s already, before he’s even made a regular season start. Obviously, it won’t be a cakewalk for Trubisky if he’s given the start now but at least doing so would give him the opportunity to grow. Most rookie quarterbacks sit in their first year so they can watch and learn from a veteran. Trubisky has absolutely nothing to learn from Captain Checkdown, certainly nothing good, anyway. If checkdowns and short dump-offs are what the Chicago Bears are gameplanning, Trubisky can easily do that, and a whole lot more, too.
There’s absolutely no question that Mitchell Trubisky should be starting now. The only question is when the Chicago Bears will wake up and recognise it.
Who should be starting quarterback in Chicago? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section or on Twitter @thejezshow.