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He's No Russell Wilson

April 29, 2013
April 29, 2013

Table of Contents
April 29, 2013

LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
NBA PLAYOFFS
BASEBALL
  • LAST SEASON WAS THE YEAR OF TROUT AND HARPER, BUT THERE WAS A THIRD BRO FROM THE ROOKIE CLASS OF 2012 WHO LEFT HIS MARK IN MORE SUBTLE WAYS. HEED THE WORDS OF HIS BUDDY BRYCE: MANNY MACHADO'S CAREER IS ABOUT TO GET REAL LOUD, REAL SOON

  • MANNY MACHADO'S ADEPT HANDLING OF THE HOT CORNER SHOULD NOT PREVENT THE O'S FROM MOVING HIM BACK TO THE MIDDLE

FILM ROOM
CELTICS 5
GREGG POPOVICH
  • Pop Art 60

    HOW GREGG POPOVICH—A FOODIE, FORMER SPY (MAYBE), RUSSIAN LITERATURE LOVER, FRENCH NEW WAVE CINEPHILE, WINE ENTHUSIAST, CURMUDGEON, FATHER FIGURE, DEFENSIVE GURU TURNED OFFENSIVE MASTERMIND AND THE LONGEST-TENURED COACH IN AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS—CREATED A MASTERPIECE IN SAN ANTONIO

Departments

He's No Russell Wilson

Mike Glennon replaced the Seahawks' star in college, but the similarities end there. If you want a classic drop-back QB, that's a good thing

BIG BOARD

This is an article from the April 29, 2013 issue

A PERIODIC LOOK AT SOME OF THE MOST INTRIGUING DRAFT PROSPECTS

Imagine an NFL where teams write out draft dossiers on scrolls. In this world Mike Glennon's section on INTANGIBLES would stretch far beyond the N.C. State quarterback's 78½-inch wingspan.

Confidence? The 23-year-old is a devotee of karaoke—even when sober. (His go-to is a falsetto rendition of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You.") Toughness? When Glennon was seven, a rough tackle by his 11-year-old brother snapped his collarbone in two—but the first-grader still played flag football the next morning, his parents unaware of the injury. Humility? At Westfield High he was named Virginia's Gatorade player of the year and a Parade All-America, but among his friends the Napoleon Dynamite look-alike never could shake his childhood nickname, Mikey. Calm amid controversy? This is the guy who stepped in when the Wolfpack showed the door to Russell Wilson in 2011 (the same Russell Wilson who would, one year later, as an NFL rookie, lead the Seahawks to a wild-card playoff win). That move wasn't based solely on talent, if you remember. Wilson was also playing minor league baseball for the Rockies and only had a year of NCAA eligibility. But Glennon had two years and a bit of leverage. Having already earned a finance degree, he could have transferred without sitting out his junior season. That would have left the Wolfpack without a QB in 2012, and it forced coach Tom O'Brien's hand.

O'Brien, of course, ended up looking like a genius. While Wilson finished his college career at Wisconsin, Glennon coolly completed 62.5% of his passes for 31 TDs, with just 12 interceptions—all better than his predecessor's junior season stats in Raleigh.

Glennon would complete only 58.5% of his throws as a senior last fall, but that number would've been 66% if not for a staggering 45 balls dropped by receivers. And despite playing behind a porous line that surrendered 39 sacks, eighth most in the country, Glennon still threw for 4,031 yards and 31 TDs. One front office executive whose club needs a franchise passer says, "Glennon is one of my two favorite quarterbacks in this draft. He can make every throw."

So why is it, then, that the Chiefs are not considering Glennon with the first pick, and instead acquired Alex Smith from the 49ers in a February trade? How can it be that the passer who supplanted Wilson, the biggest steal in the 2012 draft, is projected to come off the board no sooner than the second round, perhaps as late as the fourth?

Glennon won't allow TV cameras to document his draft experience because of this uncertainty—even if it has less to do with the 6'7", 225-pounder himself and more to do with the league's latest offensive trend. In 2013, does Mike Glennon fit the mold of an NFL quarterback? Or is he breaking it?

TWO YEARS AGO, this would have all been laughable. The tallest quarterback in this year's draft class, Glennon is the quintessential pocket passer, one who can stretch the field vertically and fit the ball into tight windows, even on throws requiring extra zip toward the sidelines. Coming out of Westfield, he chose N.C. State because of Coach O'Brien, who at Boston College had groomed another classic pocket passer, Matt Ryan, into the No. 3 pick in 2008. When O'Brien first laid eyes on the recruit, he channeled Yogi Berra, saying to himself, "Matt Ryan—déj√† vu all over again."

Though Glennon was a starter for only two seasons, several NFL observers told SI he has more upside than Ryan ever showed at BC. (Check the stats: Over their junior and senior years, Glennon had a better passer rating and completion percentage, more TDs and fewer INTs.) But that likely won't be reflected in this year's draft. For the first time since 1996, there's a very real chance that not a single QB will be taken in the first round. No prospect has the once-in-a-generation arm that made Andrew Luck the first pick last April, and none possesses the run-pass versatility that made the No. 2 pick, Robert Griffin III, the model for the next wave of prized NFL quarterbacks.

The flaws in this year's crop of passers appear especially glaring. USC's Matt Barkley has an average arm and slow feet. West Virginia's Geno Smith has a suspect work ethic. Florida State's E.J. Manuel is too robotic. Tennessee's Tyler Bray is too erratic. Arkansas's Tyler Wilson gives up on plays too quickly. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib has a hitch in his delivery and is questionable throwing the deep ball.

Glennon is not without his foibles. He needs to sharpen his decision making (his 17 interceptions last year were the most in the country), and he's not especially mobile (he rushed for minus-164 yards). Sure enough, friends often joke that he and his longtime girlfriend, Jess Wetherill, need to create a wheel of dinner options, so indecisive are they about dining out. As for his footwork, Glennon's older brother, Sean, a former quarterback at Virginia Tech, assesses Mike thusly: "He's not Michael Jackson."

Two years ago Mike and Jess were dancing at a bar in Raleigh when inspiration struck. Glennon tried executing a dance move called the Jersey Turnpike, in which you squat like a frog and thrust your hips skyward, like a sprinter at the starting line. On attempt number 1, he hip-checked his girlfriend to the ground. "I hit my head," she says, "and got a concussion."

It's no wonder the petite 23-year-old was sent flying. During his time at N.C. State, Glennon put on 40 pounds, in part by drinking as many as five protein shakes a day. (He'd set an alarm clock so he could chug one in the middle of the night.) But protein shakes and all, Glennon less resembles a pro QB than he does a lanky pitcher in the mold of Randy Johnson.

Like Johnson, Glennon has found a way to control those abnormally sized appendages. He might dance like Napoleon Dynamite, but his mechanics are "polished," says Ken O'Brien, the former Jets quarterback who helped train him in California this winter. By holding the ball high and tight, Glennon manages a quick release, long arms be damned. And by keeping his feet underneath his shoulders, even when sidestepping blitzing linebackers, he makes his frame compact and rarely loses balance. Every throw is triggered simply by picking up his front foot and putting it down, as if snuffing out a dying cigarette.

"His skill set is built for Sundays," says Dana Bible, Glennon's position coach at N.C. State and a former NFL assistant with the Eagles and Bengals. But how long will that hold true in a league mesmerized by the pistol offense?

Like a meteor flying across the sky." This is how NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell sees the read-option craze that gripped the league last season. "I don't understand why everyone is getting caught up in it."

On paper, Glennon is most similar among NFL QBs to the Falcons' Ryan (6'4" and 217 pounds) and the Ravens' Joe Flacco (6'6", 245). Both drafted in the first round, and both drop-back passers, they have produced the two highest regular-season win totals since 2008—Ryan has won 56 games and Flacco 54. So "why isn't Mike Glennon being thought of that way?" Cosell asks. "I don't understand it."

Given his background, Glennon might always be held up first against Wilson, his former Wolfpack teammate who was taken in the third round by Seattle last year and then helped spread the NFL's read-option hysteria. "I knew people would compare us and doubt [Coach O'Brien's] decision," Glennon says. "They would really put pressure on me to outperform him."

That will only intensify in the NFL, where mobile QBs like Wilson are becoming the standard and drop-back passers like Glennon might soon be considered dinosaurs. "I told Mike he can't let people's preferences for different flavors bother him," says Tom O'Brien, now the associate head coach at Virginia. "Some people want strawberry, banana or chocolate chip ice cream."

And then there's vanilla. "If teams want a drop-back guy," says Glennon, "I'm as good as it gets."

SI.COM

Can any QB sneak into the early rounds of the NFL draft? And where does Mike Glennon fit into all of this? Look to SI.com/NFL throughout the draft for live reactions and analysis.

PHOTOETHAN HYMAN/RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER/MCT/LANDOV'PACK MENTALITY Glennon's stats and stature are appealing, but in a league in awe of the read option, finding a home for a pocket passer is a tall order.PHOTOSTEVE MITCHELL/US PRESSWIRE (GLENNON)POCKET SCIENCE A 6'7" frame and a classic drop-back style puts Glennon in a class with Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.