A Leaving Legend

This past Wednesday marked the dawn of a new era in Chicago Bears football.  New head coach Matt Nagy gave a press conference at the NFL combine discussing some of the players that could be part of the team’s future.  It was fitting, then, that later in the day, there was a large announcement regarding a player from the team’s past.  One of the most memorable Bears of the last decade, a man that came to the city with a chip on his shoulder and no hair on his head who was forced out of town due primarily money.  I am talking, of course, about the departure of quarterback Mike Glennon.

OK, so maybe the lanky launcher’s release isn’t really much of a surprise—he would have been paid around $15 million next season, which is a huge amount of money for any player, much less one that would be a backup.  Glennon started his first four regular season games in a Bears uniform before being benched for the team’s incumbent first round pick, Mitchell Trubisky.  Glennon will certainly not be missed—his immobility and poor decision making on the field, combined with his exorbitant salary off of it, made him a polarizing figure.  The loads of criticism he received warranted more often than not, and he was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league during his time behind center.  That being said, while Bears fans are right to be thankful that Glennon is now gone, it’s worth taking a deeper look at his one year in Chicago.

The first, and possibly most important, thing I want to address is that it is certainly not Glennon’s fault that he was massively overpaid.  Sure, he made out well, and that makes it hard to feel sorry for him at all.  However, the money he received colored his reputation black, whereas I believe that all of the blame for this should fall on the team’s general manager, Ryan Pace.  Pace and his team have made some smart decisions during the GM’s time in Chicago—Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are an excellent one-two punch in the running game, Leonard Floyd has been a solid pass rusher, and Akiem Hicks looks like a potential star along the defensive line.  However, Pace has also made some very poor decisions, with decisions at the receiver position—which include, but are not limited to, the drafting of Kevin White and letting Alshon Jeffery walk—being among the most egregious.  Glennon’s deal, though, might go down as one of Pace’s more baffling decisions.  The buyout fee—$2.5 million—was relatively small, so that saves this from being Pace’s worst choice, which remains drafting White.  However, seeing the deals handed out to guys like Nick Foles and Case Keenum, both of whom were free agents along with Glennon last off-season and had more impressive performances on their resumes, makes Glennon’s look comparatively atrocious.  So too did the many reports that the team wasn’t bidding against anyone else for Glennon’s services.

Another one of Pace’s errors during Glennon’s duration in Chicago leads me to my second point—that he was doomed from the moment he signed his deal.  Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL, and if you don’t have a plan at the position, then you won’t be competitive in the league.  When Glennon’s contract was announced, Pace touted the quarterback as a player that could be a long-term starter for the team that had the potential to alter the team’s drafting strategy.  While it wouldn’t have made sense for Pace to reveal the team’s plans, it certainly didn’t prepare anybody for what was to come.  The decision to trade up and draft Trubisky had to have taken a lot of consideration on Pace’s part, and yet he didn’t see fit to let the man he committed at least $17.5 million to in on his thinking until after the pick was made.  Trubisky’s selection left the former Buccaneer as a lame duck, talked up as the potential long-term solution at arguably the biggest position in all of sports only to be upstaged by a hotshot rookie.  To both his and Trubisky’s credit, both men were incredibly poised throughout the year during what had to have been an incredibly awkward situation.  Glennon’s comments made it incredibly clear that he would continue giving his all no matter what, and even after he was benched, the fact that he remained a team captain was a testament to his mental fortitude and value as a leader, which are traits that Pace and former head coach John Fox seemed to lack last season.

The final point relates to Glennon’s play—it became very clear by the time that he was benched that Trubisky is a significantly better player.  That being said, Glennon was hamstrung by Pace, who chose not to provide any of the dependable big-bodied targets that Glennon thrived with during his stints of extended playing time.  This comes back to Pace’s baffling decision to let go of Alshon Jeffery and place Kevin White in an important role—knowing White’s history, not having a backup plan could only come back to haunt the team.  Of course, White was ineffective in limited playing time before being lost to a left shoulder injury, while the loss of Jeffery’s perceived replacement, Cameron Meredith, to a torn ACL, highlighted how poor the team’s depth was.  The top receivers this past season were Kendall Wright, a talented but inconsistent slot receiver, and Josh Bellamy, another slot receiver whose hands are notoriously atrocious.  Glennon was also hampered by Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggins, who finally figured out how to cater their offense to their quarterback around week 14, when the season was long lost for both the team and its week one quarterback.  Neither of these things excuses Glennon’s horrendous turnovers, or his general lack of awareness of both where his receivers were or where the pass rush was coming from.  That being said, he did almost lead his team to a win over the defending NFC champs in his first regular season start, and he was at the helm for a win on Pittsburgh, neither of which can be overlooked.

Just in case I haven’t made it clear—I, too, will not miss Glennon.  Watching a quarterback that was unable to move to make plays or sense pressure, and thereby causing useless turnovers, was extremely frustrating, even knowing the team would be bad this year.  That being said, I have a lot of respect for him—he was a player whose GM didn’t cater to his limited skill set that worked under a coaching staff that reached some of the highest levels of incompetence in Bear history, yet despite his poor performance was well-regarded by his teammates.  His failures are emblematic of how bad things had gotten under Fox, but also give me pause about the performance of Pace.  The jury remains out on him as far as fans are concerned—he’s had his share of both hits and misses in both the draft and free agency—but I feel I am a bit more worried than most.  Trubisky flashed some solid potential last year, so there definitely is hope.  However, if Pace’s handling of Glennon is a sign of things to come, then the GM and his departed quarterback will almost certainly become the most prominent faces of the team’s continuous failures of the past decade.

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