How dueling with Russell Wilson shaped new Bears QB Mike Glennon
Dana Bible coached Matt Ryan, Boomer Esiason and Erik Kramer but had never seen anything like this: for three years, two quarterbacks competing at everything, lobbying their coach for the starting job at every turn and racing to see who could answer whiteboard questions faster than the other.
“It was game on when they came into the meeting room,” Bible said.
One was Mike Glennon, who officially inherited the Bears’ starting-quarterback mantle Friday.
The other: Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowl selection Russell Wilson.
“I never had two guys that talented, that driven at the same time,” said Bible, the North Carolina State offensive coordinator while the two dueled from 2008 to 2010. “Whoever has that?”
They both wanted to win the starting job, but they looked out for each other, too.
Glennon, who redshirted his first season and backed up Wilson the next two years, was always the first to greet Wilson on the sideline, be it to celebrate or to comfort. They were roommates on the road.
“It was very positive,” Bible said, “but gloves came off.”
Bible never told them how special it was. He wanted them to think it was normal.
“I think it was an unspoken competition,” Glennon said after signing a three-year, $45 million contract with $18.5 million guaranteed. “It wasn’t something we talked about, but it was something where we both, I guess, tried to one-up each other. . . .
“It taught me at a young age how competitive it is out there. There are a lot of guys in college that don’t face that kind of competition — where I essentially was facing an elite NFL quarterback in competition at a young age.”
In the spring of 2011, Wilson, who was playing baseball, too, was released from his N.C. State scholarship and went to Wisconsin.
Glennon, who graduated in three years, got the starting job. He threw for 7,085 yards and 62 touchdowns his last two seasons and was selected by the Buccaneers in the third round of the 2013 draft.
Wilson was taken one year earlier, two picks later.
“Russell walked into an opportunity where he had a chance to play right away, and they committed to him with the Seahawks,” former N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said. “And Michael wasn’t in that exact position.”
He started 18 games in his first two seasons but then was back in competition — with 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston.
He’d never start again.
“It wasn’t different than when I was with Jameis,” he said of the college competition.
“I was always trying to find out what I needed to do to get that job.”
On Friday, he got it.
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The Bears front-loaded Glennon’s contract to limit long-term risk and could still draft a quarterback. But when general manager Ryan Pace named him the starter, Glennon, 27, began to bear the weight of a franchise that has won one playoff game in 10 years and six since Super Bowl XX.
“You look back to how he performed in college — he was a highly successful player in college — and then you just evaluate every snap that he’s taken the entire time in the NFL,” Pace said. “I mean, his sample size is big enough to have a good feel for that.
“And it’s not just me; there’s a collective agreement in the building that I like.”
Glennon’s first request: an iPad with the playbook on it. His second: pictures and names of everyone inside Halas Hall he’ll interact with — from players to janitors to cafeteria workers.
“I started realizing as I got older the importance of building those relationships and knowing the people around the building,” Glennon said. “All that leads to a family-type atmosphere that I think is important when it comes to winning football games.”
He was recognized while eating with coach John Fox and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone in Lake Forest on Thursday night — “I tend to stick out; there aren’t too many 6-7, pale, balding white guys walking around,” Glennon said — and had lunch Friday with his fellow signees.
“I can tell by the way he walks that he’s a quarterback,” safety Quintin Demps said. “He’s supposed to be a starter in this league.”
Tight end Dion Sims saw a kindred spirit in a fellow former backup — “We’re both hungry,” he said — while wide receiver Markus Wheaton was reminded of the leadership skills Glennon showed when they were in the 2013 Senior Bowl.
Plus, the speedster said, he can throw it deep.
“That’s what I need,” Wheaton said, “a guy with a big arm who can get it to me.”
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Glennon felt Chicago’s enthusiasm about the Cubs’ World Series victory way down in Tampa.
He wondered then what it would feel like to do the same with Chicago’s football team.
“My gut always told me the Bears,” he said. “My wife can attest to that. It just felt like that was the place I wanted to be, and we had talked about it, the city itself and coming to such a big city that loves its sports.”
While Pace and Fox talked to former coaches and teammates about Glennon, he was studying teams that needed a quarterback this offseason.
He committed the scouting reports to memory. On Friday, he cited a go-route catch Kevin White made in Dallas, praised Cam Meredith’s durability and touted Jordan Howard’s rookie season. He praised their front seven and called the Bears’ guards and center maybe the best trio in the league.
Glennon learned that Dowell Loggains’ offense contained elements of the three systems he has run over four years in Tampa.
“I saw a system that I felt fit my skill set,” he said.
He probed his friends about Halas Hall. Bears wide receiver Eddie Royal, who roomed with Glennon’s older brother Sean at Virginia Tech, recommended the locker room. So did Ted Larsen, an old N.C. State teammate, and former Buccaneers teammate Johnthan Banks.
“I really didn’t hear a negative word about Chicago and the Bears,” said Glennon, who will call teammates to arrange an off-site throwing session soon. “And that made me even more comfortable with the decision.”
And the Bears with him.
“He’s got all the traits that you want in a quarterback — height, arm strength, accuracy, the ability to quickly process,” Pace said. “So I don’t know how high the ceiling is. I’m just glad we have him in the mix as our starting quarterback to compete and get better.”
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Glennon and wife Jessica didn’t name their son Brady after the Super Bowl-champion quarterback, but the 7-month-old does share Tom Brady’s birthday.
Glennon’s professional life and private life won’t be under the same scrutiny as Jay Cutler’s — that would be impossible after eight years of controversy — but he will receive greater exposure than anything he saw in Tampa.
Glennon can handle the pressures of Chicago, Bible said.
“He is strong from the inside out,” he said.
He was first tested at a young age, from the duels with Wilson.
“I think we both saw each other as competition, and we both saw the potential that each other had,” Glennon said. “We knew we were gonna be great players.”