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Making sense of the Mike Glennon signing

Why did the Giants chose Glennon over Colt McCoy?

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have themselves a new backup quarterback, with the organization reaching a deal with former Jacksonville Jaguars backup Mike Glennon. Glennon, who started five games for Jacksonville last season, completed 111 of 179 passes for 1,072 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, against five interceptions.

Now, this begs the obvious question.

But...why?

We will get to that in a moment but first, a look at what Glennon did over those five starts a season ago. Of course, Jacksonville lost all five of those games, three of which they lost by more than two scores, but they did have a pair of single-score losses. The first was Glennon’s first start, a 27-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns where Glennon completed 20 of 35 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The second came in Glennon’s second start, a 27-24 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings where Glennon completed 28 of 42 passes for 280 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions, including one in overtime that set up the Vikings for the game-winning field goal.

We’re going to get to that, too.

Looking at a passing chart from Glennon’s 2020 season, you’ll see that the quarterback was at his best throwing at or near the line of scrimmage - particularly to the boundaries - and then deep down the left sideline:

This is something largely backed up by studying his film. Take, for example, this touchdown throw down the left sideline:

Here, Jacksonville runs “989” or as other systems term it “Dancer,” with a pair of vertical routes to each side of the field and a post route over the middle. With more and more teams running two-deep safety looks before the snap to try and force offense to run the football — something Seth Galina from Pro Football Focus outlined here and something I dove into in this piece on the “Future of Offense,” — 989 is an ideal route concept to stress those looks. Here, Glennon sees that the Chicago Bears are indeed in a two-high look as they drop into a Cover 6 or Quarter-Quarter-Half. Glennon attacks the cornerback on the left playing a hard corner/Cover 2 technique, and takes his chances on the deep throw.

This play illustrates not only Glennon’s ability to attack downfield, but perhaps more importantly his willingness. Remember, as we have been arguing for a while around these parts the strength of the Giants’ offense on paper, the background of Jason Garrett as a play-caller, and finally the strengths of Daniel Jones as a passer, come in the vertical passing game. Which makes this a potential scheme fit.

But there is something deeper here at work, which is the willingness to take this shot downfield.

If, as many expect, the Giants are going to try and keep Kenny Golladay in town when his free agency visit concludes one of the pitches they will need to make is that the Giants will have quarterbacks willing to target him in contested catch moments. That is one of his strengths as a receiver, but to utilize that you need a quarterback willing to challenge tighter windows, and to push the football downfield in those “50/50” moments. Now, this is not to say that the big pitch from Dave Gettleman/Joe Judge/Garrett is “look at the backup quarterback we just signed,” but this might be a window into the organization’s thinking about roster construction right now.

Here’s another example of Glennon working downfield, this time off play-action:

On this example Glennon works a variation of the Yankee Concept from an under-center alignment, throwing to the shorter of the two routes for a catch-and-run touchdown. This comes against a single-high safety look, and Glennon takes advantage of the coverage for the big play.

Once more, the willingness to attack downfield.

As we mentioned, however, there is another area that stood out in terms of where Glennon was successful, and it is in the short area of the field. Take this touchdown pass against the Indianapolis Colts that is a great example of a quarterback processing information quickly and taking advantage of what he learns while doing so:

This is a very good play from Glennon. The Jaguars are running a dual-read concept on this play: Stick to the trips side of the formation and a slant/flat combination on the backside. Glennon takes the snap and opens to the stick, and sees that the Colts are in man coverage. While that is often a good coverage to throw stick against — the inside receiver will simply run away from the man coverage defender — doing that down in the low red zone is a bit tricky because space is constricted. So Glennon immediately snaps his eyes back left to the slant/flat and when he sees the linebacker vacating the underneath hole to carry the running back’s flat route, he drills in the slant route for the touchdown.

An impressive play.

But that is the good. If there is one way to sum up the bad with Glennon, it is this overtime interception thrown against the Vikings, his second pick of the game:

Now this is technically the right read, as Glennon tries to throw the in-breaking post route to D.J. Chark working against a Cover 2 look from Minnesota, but the throw is off-target and intercepted. Exacerbating the error is the fact that this came in overtime, on a third-and-8 with Jacksonville in its own territory.

Minnesota would kick the game-winning field goal on its ensuing possession.

That is the double-edged sword of Glennon’s willingness to challenge downfield. It might result in mistakes like this.

Which begs the question: What do you want in a backup? One who is still willing to push the ball downfield and try and make plays — but exposing you to mistakes like this — or one who is going to be a bit more conservative?

That might be the distinction the Giants are going to decide between when looking at Glennon and Colt McCoy.

This move might be a sign that the franchise is looking for a bit more aggression at the position, perhaps more than anything else.