Bears

How Mike Glennon gained the trust of the Bears, and why that matters

How Mike Glennon gained the trust of the Bears, and why that matters

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." 

How a tired Bears defense shut down Cam Newton and dominated the Carolina Panthers

10-22dannytrevathan.jpg
USA Today

How a tired Bears defense shut down Cam Newton and dominated the Carolina Panthers

The Bears asked a lot of their defense on Sunday, and every single unit delivered in a big way. 

Midway through the third quarter, on the 11th play of a drive nearing the red zone, Eddie Goldman stuffed Cam Newton on fourth-and-2 to keep the Carolina Panthers from scoring while the Bears’ offense was sputtering to a string of three-and-outs. Akiem Hicks continued what should be a Pro Bowl season with a sack, a hurry and two tackles for a loss. Mitch Unrein teamed up with Goldman to record a sack and played well against the run. 

Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee each recorded sacks and consistently disrupted Newton. Danny Trevathan dropped Newton, too, and picked off a pass. Christian Jones was rock-solid next to Trevathan, helping limit Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey to 58 yards on 21 carries. 

Prince Amukamara tipped a pass intended for Kelvin Benjamin that fell into the waiting arms of Eddie Jackson for a 76-yard pick six; the rookie safety, of course, had that 75-yard fumble return score that set the tone for a dominant defensive day. Kyle Fuller continued to play like a shutdown corner, and Adrian Amos continued his solid play since stepping in for an injured Quintin Demps. 

This name-by-name breakdown is deserved for these players not only for their production, but for playing this well while the Bears’ defense was on the field for 38:35 and 69 snaps. 

Were these players tired?

“Heck yeah, we were tired,” Hicks said. 

But did it affect how they played?

“No,” Floyd said. “To be honest with you we were excited to go back out there, keep on executing. We just felt good today, just playing on a high level and hitting on all cylinders.”

The Bears’ defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Jerrick McKinnon gashed them for a 58-yard run in the third quarter of Oct. 9’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Say what you will about the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive struggles this year, but the Panthers — led by Newton, McCaffrey and Benjamin — have plenty of playmakers on offense. Newton and the Carolina offensive line were bullied for five sacks and 11 hurries, McCaffrey was largely bottled up, and Benjamin managed three catches on six targets. 

“We want to be on the field, the defense,” Trevathan said. “That’s our job. When we’re put in a tough situation, we’ve got to rise, take that as a challenge. Guys coming in our backfield trying to run in our end zone? No, it’s not going to happen. It’s an attitude and it’s an execution of the plays called and being on the same page, having fun out there and making plays."

The message from the Bears’ defensive players after Sunday’s game was less about their accomplishments, though, and more about what else they can do. But the sense is this defense believes it can be the reason why the Bears can blow past their 2016 win total, which they’ve already matched. 

Still got a long way to go,” McPhee said. “Just keep building that chemistry, that bond. We got a long way to go. We ain’t really done nothing yet. It’s great, now I love it, but we just gotta stay focused, forget about this game and move on to the Saints and go take that.

“… We got a special group, man. We just gotta keep believing in the system and keep holding each other accountable and take it one play, one game at a time.”

This was already a confident group going into Week 7 — Hicks said the Bears’ defense had one of its best weeks of practice leading up to facing the Panthers — but that belief will surely grow after Sunday. If the Bears’ defense can play this well, against a good offense, while being on the field as much as they were, there’s no reason to think this level of success can’t continue. 

“We’re trying to wake the city up, bring the city back to loving the Chicago Bears,” Floyd said. “We’re just going to keep fighting, keep going in and executing. We’re looking forward to next Sunday.” 

View from the Moon: Another sign of culture shift evident within emerging Bears team

10-22_trubisky_bears_ap.jpg
AP

View from the Moon: Another sign of culture shift evident within emerging Bears team

Just win, baby. That really is the whole point, or maybe points – the scoreboard points, not the style points. On Sunday, however, the defense in the Bears’ 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers accounted for enough of both kinds of points for the Bears (3-4) to matching their win total of last season, and in the process win two straight games for the first time since mid-2015.

How much or what it really means, though, as was the case with the Bears’ win at Baltimore a week ago, will have to play out in New Orleans next Sunday. Because the last time the Bears stacked two victories, it got them to 5-6 in John Fox’s first Bears year, whereupon Robbie Gould missed some field goals and the Bears went into a two-year death spiral, fueled by a year of quarterback turmoil. “I don’t know if [the 2016 win total] is really a benchmark for us, to be honest,” Fox deadpanned.

But that was then, this is now. And a lot is different. A lot. Because in the past handful of weeks, which have seen victories over Baltimore and Carolina after a failed final possession with a chance at a winning score over Minnesota, the Bears have seemed to be pulling up from the death spiral that followed the last time they won two straight.

“We’re definitely trying to change the culture,” said linebacker Leonard Floyd, whose first-quarter sack of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was Floyd’s fourth in the last four games. Right now, it is difficult not to sense the culture change, regardless of whether the Bears go into their off-week 4-4 or 3-5.

One of the hallmarks of success, in fields far beyond just football, is to win when you’re not performing anywhere close to your best. Everybody does well when they’re “on” and cylinders are firing. Winning when they’re not is another matter.

And the Bears won a game Sunday despite their quarterback taking as many sacks (four) as he had completed passes – this after winning a game (Baltimore) in which Mitch Trubisky threw away almost as many passes (six) as he completed (eight). Probably a pattern that neither he nor the Bears are looking to as some weird winning formula, but if they can win when they don’t play well, just maybe… .

This time at least the Bears managed to close out a game in the standard 60 minutes, which was critical since the defense, while holding Newton and the Panthers to three points. This marked the first time since midway through Newton’s rookie season (2011) that Carolina has been held to that few points, a span of 94 games.

“We didn’t score [a touchdown] as an offense, and defense carried us so we kind of felt salty that we didn’t help out more,” Trubisky said. (Consider that another small culture tweak – in eight years of Jay Cutler and, before that, Kyle Fuller and Brian Griese and Rex Grossman, “salty” was never an accusation anyone would have leveled at the offense, win or lose).

Credit Trubisky with candor and accuracy. The defense did indeed carry the offense, holding Carolina out of the end zone and in the process making it nine-plus quarters and 29 straight opposing possessions that have ended short of the end zone, extending back to Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon’s TD run in the third quarter of the Minnesota game.

It wasn’t always elite on defense. In the course of the first four games this season, the Bears defense allowed nine scoring drives of 60 yards or longer; over the past three games, a total of just two. 

Pulling the camera back to look at more than just the defense:

To put this in some sort of NFL context: No Bears opponent has been below .500 at the time they faced the Bears (Atlanta and Tampa Bay hadn’t played before they faced the Bears). This was not only the Bears’ third win; it was their third win over a team with a winning record (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Carolina) at the time the Bears faced them. 

Sunday was not without its obvious concerns, big ones in fact.

For the second straight game, Trubisky was sacked four times. This time he appeared to take sacks rather than throw balls away as he did in Baltimore, but Trubisky was still unofficially the only starting NFL quarterback completing less than 50 percent of his passes, and his 4-for-7 day only managed to pull him even at 50 percent.

And an offensive line with a supposedly elite interior-three and a left tackle recently given a contract extension has been complicit in Trubisky taking nine sacks over the past 11 quarters. Actually, to put a little finer point on it, that would be nine sacks in the last 46 drop-backs, although some of those were admittedly Trubisky electives.

“We had more plays called [Sunday], I was just pulling them down, being conservative and taking sacks,” Trubisky said. “I was just trying to play smart, protect the football and get out of here with a win.”

That would be the informal football Gospel according to John Fox, so Trubisky is indeed learning; the downfield fireworks will come when they come. And the Panthers did come into Sunday ranked No. 2 for total sacks in the NFL.

In the meantime, the Bears could go into their off-week following New Orleans within a game of first place in the NFC North, if next weekend they defeat the Saints (4-2) and Minnesota (5-2) loses. The latter isn’t terribly likely given that the Vikings play Cleveland, but the game is in London and the Browns do have to beat SOMEBODY (don’t they?).

Regardless, that’s the math of it all, and the Bears have played themselves back from the abyss to this point. And they clearly are looking forward, not back.

“Guys just know we have a good chance of winning every week,” Trubisky said. Maybe that’s the biggest culture change taking place.