Ask just about any member of the Bears offense about Mike Glennon, and you’ll get this answer before anything else: He’s a great leader.
Quarterbacks, of course, are expected to be leaders. It'd be weird if the player with the most communication responsibilities — and who touches the ball the most — wasn’t.
But consider the path Glennon took to get to Chicago: Benched twice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, first to Josh McCown and second to No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. After the Bucs grabbed Winston in the 2015 draft, Glennon only threw 11 regular season passes before signing with the Bears. That’s a long time to sit on the bench and not have many leadership responsibilities, let alone on-field ones.
Glennon, though, came to Halas Hall in March without a shred of timidity about commanding the Bears’ offense. The drafting of Mitch Trubisky with the team's highest pick in decades didn’t change Glennon’s outlook, either.
And because of that steady approach, the 6-foot-7 quarterback with a 5-13 career record will roll into his first preseason game with the Bears Thursday night against the Denver Broncos with his whole team behind him.
“He was a leader from Day 1, and not just training camp,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said. “OTAs, regular workouts, he’s been that guy. He’s meant for it.”
Glennon is new to everyone in Bourbonnais apart from Zach Miller, who spent a short amount of time with the Bucs in 2013 (Miller was cut in late August that year). Even then, Miller saw Glennon in the nascent stages of his NFL career. The point is: No players really knew what to expect from him.
Victor Cruz came to the Bears after spending six seasons with Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winner with 108 career victories. So when Cruz showed up at Halas Hall this spring, he knew what he was looking for out of his new quarterback.
“A lot of guys, especially myself, haven't seen him that much aside from some preseason and being in Tampa and things like that,” Cruz said. “I wanted to see what his command was like, can he command an offensive huddle, how he talks to us, how he communicates, what he wants from his receiving corps, his offense in general.
“He's done a great job. I think he's concise. He's clear about what he wants, how he wants it run. And he's able to apply what he wants on the field and talks us through it.”
This is where the idea of leadership matters: The Bears’ offensive players have developed a strong trust in Glennon. That comes through when the team is breaking the huddle, or when Glennon — as he did Monday early in practice — sees something he doesn’t like and communicates a clear this-isn’t-good-enough message.
“Even down to the way he recites the play to us prior to us breaking the huddle, there’s something about that that really gives us a good sense of confidence,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said.
“If it’s not right, he won’t sugarcoat anything with you,” Wright said. “If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. He’s a guy who’s going to tell you exactly how he wants it, how it should look and he goes out there and does it. … You want (a quarterback) to be a straight-up and real with you as possible. I think Mike is doing that and I think guys are listening to him.”
All the positives about Glennon’s leadership, though, have yet to be tested during a game. What happens if the Glendon-led offense stalls? What if he struggles to be productive and calls for Mitch Trubisky to replace him get noisier?
The best trait Glennon could have to answer those questions, at least from a leadership standpoint, is that his style is genuine to his personality. He hasn’t had to force leadership out of himself after being given an eight-figure contract and command of the Bears’ offense.
“I’m not, like, one of those big rah-rah guys, just kind of straightforward,” Glennon said. “Mainly let my actions do the talking but occasionally I have to speak up and fix something, or whatever it might be.”
That’s exactly the approach Miller hoped to see from Glennon.
“Be you, everything else will take care of itself,” Miller said. “When you get into trying to do too much, I think it’ll come off as a little phony, a little fake, and guys will see that. but that’s not the situation.”
Back in early March, before the Bears signed Glennon and drafted Trubisky, both coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace said they were looking for a quarterback who could “raise all boats” — i.e., make everyone around him better. Surely that didn’t mean signing a quarterback without a winning track record, right?
Glennon, the guy with five wins and 13 losses as a starter, has turned out to be someone who — at least during OTAs and training camp — has had that boat-raising ability.
Whether that translates to success in the regular season is still a question that needs to be answered. But from a leadership standpoint, Glennon has so far done everything the Bears hoped to get out of their quarterback in 2017.
Said Fox: “There's guys that when the chips are down, they're in that huddle and you've got 70,000 people staring at you and lord only knows how many more on television, they're able to motivate and inspire their teammates."