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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."