Mike Glennon sixth QB to start for Jaguars since 2018 season began

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The path for Mike Glennon to make his first start for the Jacksonville Jaguars -- which comes this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns -- began more than two years ago.

On Feb. 24, 2018, actually.

It was a sunny, 74-degree Saturday in Jacksonville, which, as it turned out, lulled the franchise into a false sense of security and gave no indication of the impending storm of circumstances over the next three seasons. Those circumstances eventually led to head coach Doug Marrone asking an eight-year veteran who has thrown just 31 passes over the past two seasons to end the franchise’s longest single-season losing streak.

That February day was when the Jaguars signed Blake Bortles to a three-year extension that included $26.5 million guaranteed. The third overall pick in 2014 had a rough season in 2016 but rebounded with the best year of his career in 2017. He completed 60.2% of his passes (the first time he surpassed the 60% mark) for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and helped the Jaguars win the AFC South and reach the AFC Championship Game.

It has been, quite frankly, a mess at quarterback since then. When Glennon takes the Jaguars' first snap on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, he’ll be the sixth quarterback to start a game for the Jaguars since the 2018 season began. Six quarterbacks in 43 games -- and only three of them won games.

Glennon hasn’t started a game since Week 4 of the 2017 season, when he was with the Chicago Bears, and has only thrown 31 passes since he lost his starting job to Mitchell Trubisky. It will be more than a year since Glennon has seen any game action (Nov. 24, 2019). All he is being asked to do is keep the Jaguars from losing what would be a franchise-record 10th consecutive game.

“The thing to me is I have nothing to lose,” Glennon said. “I mean, I haven’t been the starter in three years. I don’t know when this opportunity’s going to come again. I’m just going to go out there, have fun, let it rip and see what happens. We’re a 1-9 football team, and I’m just going to do whatever I can to help us win. I’ve been through some good, I’ve been through some bad and at this point in my career, I just want to kind of go out and play like I have nothing to lose.”

He really doesn’t. The Jaguars have one of the NFL’s worst offenses -- they rank 27th or worse in total offense, rushing offense and scoring -- and they’re coming off a game in which they scored just three points. They have scored 30 points just once this season, and they registered 260 and 206 yards of offense in their past two games.

And as for Glennon, he is almost certainly not going to be back with the Jaguars in 2021. They’ll be drafting a quarterback with their first pick, and Jake Luton and Gardner Minshew fit better as potential backups, partially because they’re significantly cheaper.

That’s why Glennon will treasure this start. He knows it might be his last -- or even the last time he plays in a game again.

“I think it’s something that you never take for granted, being one of the 32 guys that get to be a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Glennon said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to go to battle with these guys and try to help us get a win. So, [it’s] something that you don’t take lightly because you never know when it’s going to come again.

“Like I said, I’m just going to kind of play with that attitude and hopefully that mindset helps us out.”

Glennon’s own journey to this point is just as disjointed as the Jaguars’ QB issues. He cracked the starting lineup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a rookie in 2013 after Josh Freeman led the Bucs to an 0-3 start. New coach Lovie Smith installed Josh McCown as the starter in 2014 but said Glennon was the team’s QB of the future. Glennon relieved an injured McCown during the season, but McCown got his job back later in the season.

Glennon sat behind Jameis Winston in 2015 and 2016 but seemed to land on his feet in Chicago when the Bears signed him to a three-year, $45 million contract in March 2017. A month later, however, the Bears traded up to No. 2 and drafted Trubisky.

Glennon started the first four weeks before being benched for Trubisky.

So yes, if you’re trying to follow: Glennon got benched for Trubisky, who got benched this year for Nick Foles, who got benched last year for Minshew, who was replaced because of injury by Jake Luton, who got benched this week for Glennon.

However, that up-and-down career path might actually help Glennon this Sunday, Jacksonville offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said.

“There’s been other quarterbacks throughout the history of the league that didn’t get a great opportunity; [and] when they did, they didn’t play well; and then as they got older, they got another opportunity, took advantage of it,” Gruden said. “We’re hoping that’s the case with Mike, and I’m sure he’s hoping the same thing. So this is a great opportunity for him, and hopefully he does take advantage, like I said, but it’s going to be a stiff challenge.

“We’re down a couple players here and there, and we’re on this losing streak, so the opportunity’s there for him, but he has to perform well -- a lot better hopefully than we have the past couple weeks.”

Much longer than the past couple of weeks ... approximately the past 92 weeks, really.

Ready to wade through the quagmire of how the Jaguars got to this point?

Bortles got off to a good start in 2018 -- the highlight being 376 yards and a career-high four TDs in a victory over New England -- but struggled after Week 4. He was benched at halftime against Houston in Week 7 after losing two fumbles but remained the starter until Marrone took him out of the starting lineup after the Jaguars’ loss in Buffalo in Week 12.

Cody Kessler started the next four games and went 2-2, but he was battered behind an offensive line ravaged by injuries (three of the five end-of-season starters weren’t with the team in September), and Marrone went back to Bortles for the season finale.

Foles, whom the Jaguars signed to a four-year, $88 million contract that included a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed in March 2019, lasted 11 snaps in the season opener before suffering a broken collarbone.

Minshew, the team’s sixth-round pick who failed to lead the offense to a touchdown drive in 30 possessions during the preseason, started the next eight games and went 4-4 before Foles was cleared to return and Marrone put him back in the starting lineup.

Foles lasted just 10 quarters before Marrone benched him for Minshew. The Jaguars traded Foles in the offseason and gave Minshew the chance to prove he could be the franchise’s long-term starter. Minshew started the first seven games of this season, but a thumb injury, which he originally suffered Oct. 11 but hid from the coaching staff, put him on the bench.

Luton, the team’s sixth-round pick, started the past three games but had one of the worst games ever for a Jaguars QB last week against Pittsburgh: 16-of-37 passing, 151 yards, four interceptions and a 15.5 passer rating.

Which brings us back to Glennon, who believes he is better prepared to be a starter.

“I’ve been in more offenses," Glennon said. "I’ve seen more defenses. I think [I’m] just playing with a freer mind than I was when I was in Chicago. I just think that mentally could’ve bogged me down a little in the past, and now I’m just, like I said, at a point in my career where I’m just going to cherish these moments.”