The Bears spent weeks, if not months, researching Mike Glennon. They watched film, talked to former pro and college coaches and friends and daydreamed.
They chose the Buccaneers backup to succeed Jay Cutler on Thursday with a mere idea of what he could become. There’s little else to go on — he’s thrown just 11 regular-season passes since the start of the 2015 season, and those were all during the same game.
The signing is a risk by general manager Ryan Pace, who will pay Glennon $18.5million guaranteed as part of a three-year, $45 million deal. He’ll get $16 million inhis first year, limiting the Bears’ risk if he struggles.
He’ll be the Week 1 starter this year, but neither his presence nor contract will preclude the Bears from hunting for a quarterback in the draft, though not likely with the No. 3 overall pick.
In a free-agency period filled with leaguewide pitfalls, the Bears hope they’re taking an educated chance on Glennon. They’ll point to his build, arm strength and the belief he might have been the victim of bad timing in Tampa.
He was their free-agent focus from the beginning.
“They don’t know what they’re getting — and there’s no way that they can know,” said Dana Bible, Glennon’s offensive coordinator at North Carolina State, who spoke with coach John Fox. “I would suggest to you that they’re going to really be pleased with their quarterback.”
Glennon played for three Buccaneers head coaches after being drafted in the third round in 2013. After Lovie Smith finished in last place in 2014, the Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston first overall. He has yet to miss a start.
“Nobody knows what Glennon is,” former Bearsscouting director Greg Gabriel said. “Including the Bears.”
There’s a hope that Glennon has grown even more sturdy and comfortable in his 6-7, 225-pound frame. His arm strength has never been an issue, but his lack of athleticism means the Bears need to keep rushers out of his face.
At 27, Glennon is four years younger and throws a better deep pass than former backup Brian Hoyer, who signed a two-year deal with the 49ers on Thursday. Cutler’s return to the Bears — who did not announce the Glennon move Thursday — was never a likely proposition.
Former Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt, the Bucs’ special teams coordinator during Glennon’s rookie year, was impressed by his maturity in Tampa.
“He’d come to meetings with his books and everything,” Wannstedt said. “And you thought the guy was working at IBM or something. It was all business.”
If the Buccaneers had any concern about him coming out of college, Wannstedt said, it was that he started only two seasons at North Carolina State, where he famously outlasted Russell Wilson. The future Seahawks star transferred to Wisconsin for the 2011 season, and Glennon took over the starting job.
“He’s got the arm strength, he makes good decisions,” Wannstedt said. “He gets the big picture. He understands that if you turn the ball over and do crazy things, bad things happen. He was a leader. …
“When he was thrust into the stating lineup, the thing that I remembered about him was, he understood the big picture. There’s the old expression: ‘You have to understand what’ll lose a game for you before you start talking about what will win a game for ya.’ He did.”
Glennon started 13 games as a rookie, throwing 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions while winning only four games. He went 1-4 in 2014, lost his job to Josh McCown and then to Winston.
“That’s a [combined] season under his belt in the NFL,” said Tom O’Brien, his N.C. State coach.
“It’s not what a lot of people have. But you have to start somewhere.”
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