When Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced Wednesday that Mike Glennon would start at quarterback against the Cleveland Browns, the move sent rookie quarterback Jake Luton to the bench after just 12 quarters of football.
But why exactly did Marrone and his offensive staff pull the plug on Jacksonville's sixth-round rookie just three games into his tenure? The answer is a relatively simple one but still one that is important to find.
Marrone's answers, and the answers from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, earlier this week help paint the picture of why the Jaguars opted to change course on their quarterback strategy after less than a month.
"First, I spoke to Jake [Luton]. I told Jake that, ‘Hey, we really appreciate everything, really like a lot of things that you’re doing, but we’re just going to take a step back and just kind of digest things for awhile and just look at things and get you back on track’, so he’s fine," Marrone said Wednesday when he announced the move to local media. "I think he has a chance to become a good football player in this league."
This is interesting because Marrone himself said at the start of November when Luton was named the starter that he wanted to see what Luton had because he was inexperienced and Glennon wasn't. Glennon is an eight-year veteran with over 20 starts, but Luton was an unknown. After three games, that shouldn't have changed.
The Jaguars knew he would likely struggle considering he didn't have a single preseason rep and was with the backups during training camp. Did they not anticipate him potentially holding back the offense with his rawness?
In short, the Jaguars did. But when a quarterback plays so poorly on a consistent basis that it is both holding back the offensive and making the chance of evaluating the unit impossible, then a move typically has to be made.
Luton played poorly enough in Week 10 to make it reasonable to consider a change then, but it is also fair to wonder how much the wind conditions impacted him. But this benefit of the doubt evaporated in Week 11 when the Jaguars got trounced 27-3 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in large part due to Luton.
Luton put forth the worst performance of his rookie season and among the worst performances by a quarterback this season. Luton finished Sunday completing 16/37 passes (43.2%) for 151 yards (4.1 yards per attempt) and four interceptions, giving him a passer rating of 15.5. Among all quarterbacks in Week 11, Luton had the lowest completed pass percentage over expectation according to NFL Next Gen Stats and the lowest EPA per play per rbsdm.com.
In short, the Jaguars wanted to see what Luton had until the wheels came off the offense. Ultimately, this took just three games. The feeling with many inside the organization was that Luton would continue to start in 2020 until he began to struggle, and such was the case in Week 12.
“I don’t think it’s uncommon when a young guy gets thrown in there and he shows promise and then you look to see a little bit of the technique, a little bit of stuff start to go down, maybe because there’s much concern on whether there’s protection or whatever it may be," Marrone said Wednesday.
"I think that if you keep him out there, like I said, there’s a lot of good things I see in Jake and I think it’s just a smart move to take a step back with him right now. That’s just how I feel. It’s been done. It’s done during the course of games. We’ve seen it done last week in the NFL, so I think that’s understandable and people could understand that, especially people that are in the league understand what’s going on. I think people on the outside too."
Glennon doesn't have the upside of Luton, nor does he have the guise of inexperience to use as hope he will develop. Ultimately, he is what he is. But the Jaguars clearly hope that he will at least make the basic throws and clean up the mistakes that Luton struggled with over the last two games.
Sending Luton to the bench after three games could also give him a chance to see the game from a new perspective. He has been a second or third-stringer before, but now he knows what it is like on the field on Sundays, giving him a better idea of how to prepare and what to expect.
“It’ll help him a lot. I think getting thrust into the fire like he did is difficult. Like I said before, we didn’t exactly know what we had," Gruden said Wednesday when asked how Luton taking a step back can help his development.
"There was no preseason games, we didn’t get a lot of reps [with him] in training camp. We just saw him through on scout team and individual periods. Obviously, we still have a lot of high hopes for him and his development, but I think at this time it’s best for him to take a step back and hopefully learn from his experience and then the next time he does get a shot, he’ll hit it running.”
Luton had his first crack at the starting gig with the Jaguars. The NFL is so wildly unpredictable that one shouldn't rule out him starting again -- Gruden himself said as much. But for now, the Jaguars have decided they are not willing to deal with his growing pains as they try to snap a nine-game losing streak.