McCarron appears primed to go through much of the same drama Glennon endured with the Chicago Bears in 2017.
McCarron will officially enter free agency in March after a ruling that his first year in the NFL spent on the NFI list counted as a year of service time. He has spent the last few years backing up Andy Dalton, playing sparingly, and becoming one of the most desirable backup quarterbacks in the NFL. In another year, McCarron might have been the most intriguing name on the quarterback market, but with Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum all potentially testing free agency, the buzz surrounding McCarron isn’t humming.
When a team signs him, the deal will be reported in seemingly enormous figures, as most quarterback deals are. A closer look at the terms, however, will reveal that McCarron is guaranteed a much smaller sum. He’ll get a sizable raise for the 2018 season, sure, but it won’t be really built for the long-term. Glennon, for example, received three years, $45 million in his deal with the Bears. He earned $16 million last year, and would be due another $4.5 million if Chicago cuts him. For one year of football, $20.5 million isn’t bad.
But of course, his earning power has fallen significantly if the Bears abandon him. His 2017 season will end up being a sizable chunk of his career earnings. If he gets cut, a move that seems inevitable, Glennon may have to accept a deal elsewhere that looks like Brian Hoyer’s contract (three years, $4.4 mil) or Matt Schaub’s (two years, $9 million). He may be closer to Hoyer’s deal. The Bears were 1-3 under Glennon, who completed 66 percent of his passes for 833 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. Mitchell Trubisky, the second-overall pick in the 2017 draft, took over from there.
McCarron’s next 12 months may take similar twists and turns.
A number of teams have the cap space to make a non-commitment to McCarron before picking another quarterback in the NFL draft. Frankly, they’d be wise to. The Cleveland Browns or the New York Jets, both of which have top-six selections in the upcoming draft, could do to McCarron almost exactly what the Bears did to Glennon.
But the most important part of Glennon-ing is that he’ll have to flunk out of the starting role. That’s where most people will argue that, to this point, McCarron has been better than Glennon. And they think McCarron will be better.
But the comparison isn’t strong in their narrative. They’re also similar statistically.
McCarron has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 920 yards, six touchdowns and two touchdowns. On 113 attempts, his yards per attempt has been 6.9 with a 1.5 interception percentage. McCarron also had an overtime time fumble on a shotgun snap in his second start against the Broncos that lost the game for Bengals. McCarron was clearly at fault for the miscue. He’s got a tiny sample size, in part because the Bengals redshirted McCarron in his rookie season by putting him on the non-football injury list. McCarron was healthy enough to return to the active roster, but they kept him off the roster and off the field.
Glennon didn’t take his rookie year off. But for the sake of argument, let’s give him the same benefit McCarron had. Let’s ignore Glennon’s rookie stats (when he was actually decent filling in for Josh Freeman). When Glennon hit free agency last offseason, he had completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,492 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in the seasons since being a rookie. On 214 attempts, he averaged 7.0 yards per attempt with a 2.8 interception percentage.
Are we looking at monumentally different quarterbacks? I’d say it’s time for the Spiderman meme.
McCarron’s body of work is probably more impressive than Glennon’s sample, no matter how you measure it. But McCarron also looked every shade of average that Andy Dalton has been. And of course, McCarron remained the Bengals’ backup. So logic says that McCarron is no better than Dalton, whose mediocrity (and inability to win playoff games) is largely responsible for Cincinatti’s holding pattern.
History is also not on McCarron’s side. McCarron turns 28 in September. He joins a handful of players who spent most of their career as a backup before starting (or trying to start) elsewhere. Matt Flynn played well with the Packers as Aaron Rodgers’ backup before ending up in and out of Seattle. Billy Volek, Shaun Hill and Steve Bono are the other ghosts of Glennon’s past. The likeness to McCarron is a little haunting.
McCarron isn’t some sort of franchise savior. He was the backup to Dalton for a reason. He’ll get the reigns for an organization — but it won’t last long. And next offseason or following one when he’s almost 30, he’ll be figuring out which quarterback he prefers to understudy for the following season.