Watching Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson lead his team to a Super Bowl title on Sunday presents a question and opens up a debate for many. Is a mobile quarterback truly the future in the NFL and are the days of the classic drop-back passer coming to an end? And should this have any bearing on who lines up under center for the Buccaneers in September?
Wilson’s stats were modest against Denver in Seattle’s first-ever Super Bowl win as he completed 18-of-25 passes for 206 yards two TDs, along with three carries for 26 yards, but the ability to avoid the Broncos’ rush and extend a handful of plays, particularly in the first quarter, were just as key as the play of the Seahawks defense. And it wasn’t just picking up yards on the ground, it was the ability to get outside the pocket and and buy time for receivers to get open.
On the other side of the field, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was like a statue in the pocket and affected all night by a relentless rush that harassed, tipped passes, got in throwing lanes and created disruption, something Manning was unable to counter with his feet.
New Bucs quarterback coach Marcus Arroyo spoke to the media on Wednesday and was asked if the position is changing to a more mobile player under center.
“I wouldn’t say that – I think that if you have that tool, then you can find a way to use it,” Arroyo said. “I think if you have other tools, we can see how it goes as well. We’re going to fit it around what we believe gives us the best chance to win, and what the philosophy is, and what [offensive coordinator] Jeff [Tedford] has in mind.”
Looking at the NFC, three of the six quarterbacks (Wilson, Carolina’s Cam Newton, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick) in the divisional playoff rounds were considered mobile, and even taking it a step further to all NFC playoff quarterbacks, you could add Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, who rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns in 2013, to the list, making it four of the eight NFC playoff quarterbacks.
The biggest concern about Glennon coming out of North Carolina State was a lack of mobility, and he did little in his rookie season to disprove the theory.
Ask 100 Bucs fans if Glennon is the long-term solution in Tampa Bay and you will most likely find it split down the middle. Some see a guy who set Bucs rookie records and led the team to four wins in their last eight games, while others see a player who is strictly a game-managing career NFL backup who doesn’t have the “it” factor.
The truth may lie somewhere in the middle, but at this point the only thing that matters is what the new Bucs coaching staff and front office thinks of the lanky former Wolfpack signal caller.
Arroyo, said the jury on Glennon is still out, but the offensive staff does see some tools he has that they can work with.
“I think that’s yet to be determined obviously because of us just not having a chance to work with him,” Arroyo said. “What we see on tape is based on what he was coached in the last system. So, I’m not going to make any stabs at guessing what his availability is to do what we do. Is it on tape? But we can see some tools, and there are some definite tools that he has that we are excited about, and some things that we can develop to fit our system for him, so that’s exciting.”
Glennon’s rookie season was a mixed bag filled with ups and downs. Glennon threw for 2,608 yards in his 13 starts as a rookie, and tossed 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, something that was impressive to Arroyo. Yet Glennon didn’t function well under pressure.
“Obviously at that position, there are a lot of thing we look into pretty detailed, but you’re looking at the production, you’re looking at some of the things he does in the pocket,” Arroyo said. “Looking at what kind of throw inventory he has, what kind of arm strength he has, what kind of accuracy short, what kind of accuracy long, how did he do on third down? How does he do in the red zone? How does he do in critical situations? How does he do when he’s behind? The things that stick out in those situations that you see on tape are all promising. He stands in the pocket well, he delivers the ball, he has a long inventory of passes he can throw. He’s got a strong arm. He seems cerebral, so I could go on.”
While Arroyo praised Glennon, and with good reason for many things, he contributed just 37 yards rushing in 13 starts and that is something surely the Bucs would like to see get better. Newton, who led NFL QBs with 587 yards rushing, actually out-gained Glennon’s season total with just one run against the Buccaneers earlier this season. Wilson ran for 539 yards and Kaepernick had 521 yards on the ground. Even Andrew Luck had 377 yards and Alex Smith gave his team 432 additional yards by using his feet. Glennon finished 39th in quarterback rushing in 2013, behind Aaron Rodgers (120 yards), Jay Cutler (118 yards) and even Drew Brees (54 yards) none of which will even be confused with Steve Young or Fran Tarkenton.
And as noted earlier, it isn’t just about rushing the football, but maybe more importantly being able to extend plays, avoid sacks and find open receivers. Too many times in 2013 Glennon crumbled under pressure or lost the football awkwardly (at Atlanta and at Carolina) trying to avoid the rush.
Certainly being mobile and having the ability to pick up yards with your feet isn’t a necessity to win titles in the NFL, just ask Ravens (Joe Flacco) and Giants (Eli Manning) fans, but it certainly can help, as proven by Wilson on Sunday night. Some of Wilson’s best plays on Sunday night went unnoticed by many was his ability to avoid sacks and throwing the ball away, to do as coaches say often, live to fight another down. There is a big difference between second-and-10 and second-and-19. And if you are going to use a drop-back passer in your offense, you must surround him him a stellar offensive line, something else the Buccaneers will need to address before the start of the season.
The upcoming NFL Draft is deep with quarterbacks who fit that mobility profile, such as Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, all of whom are likely first-round picks, and now it is up to the Bucs coaching staff and front office to decide if Glennon’s style can win in the NFL or if Tampa Bay needs a more athletic option at quarterback.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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