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Russell Wilson alone not convincing NFL teams to seek shorter quarterbacks
Mike Glennon, at 6-7, most likely will go higher in the draft than Russell Wilson did
Seattle Times staff reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Glennon was picked ahead of Russell Wilson once before.
It was two years ago when Wilson was playing minor-league baseball and Glennon was promoted to North Carolina State's starting quarterback.
Glennon is very likely to be chosen earlier than Wilson once again, which speaks to just how little impact Wilson's rookie season, as phenomenal as it was, had on changing the way NFL teams value height in their quarterbacks.
Glennon is 6 feet 7, you see, the tallest of the 16 quarterbacks attending the scouting combine this year, while Wilson was the shortest of the 11 quarterbacks selected last year.
"This is a big man's game," said Gil Brandt, one of the league's first and foremost draft scouts. "This is a rare, rare, rare exception is what it is. A totally rare exception."
Think about that the next time someone calls the NFL a copycat league. Because while teams try to assimilate defensive schemes, offensive formations and even other teams' coaching staffs, teams aren't exactly lining up to try to replicate Seattle's success with a short quarterback.
That is kind of odd given how hard it is to find a franchise quarterback in this league and Seattle seems to have found one by adjusting its gaze down a few inches. Yet, not even two months after Wilson won a playoff game, the league's draft industrial complex chugs along unchanged.
Every year the NFL's 32 teams spend months deciding what players they will draft by scrutinizing all types of things other than those players' results at actually playing the game of football. They log bench-press repetitions, 40-yard sprint times and dutifully measure everything down to hand size.
These things are important. Physical characteristics and athletic ability are like the list of ingredients in a recipe, but they don't by themselves dictate the quality of the final dish. But at some point, success at every level of football means something.
At least that seemed to be the lesson from Wilson's rookie season.
All he ever did in college was succeed, whether it was winning North Carolina State's starting job as a redshirt freshman who began training camp No. 5 on the depth chart to leading Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl after he transferred there.
And after Seattle was panned for selecting a quarterback so short in the third round, all Wilson did was go out and match Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 touchdown passes and take the Seahawks 30 seconds away from beating Atlanta and playing for the conference championship.
All that talk that Wilson might have changed the way teams viewed shorter quarterbacks might have been overblown, though.
"It has to be an offensive fit," said Bill Polian, longtime Colts GM who now is an ESPN analyst. "West Coast (schemes), you can play with a shorter quarterback going all the way back to Steve Young. Other offenses you can't."
Quarterbacks rarely get any taller than him, and he's an arm that functions like a 1-wood, driving the ball down the field. He has been compared to Baltimore's Joe Flacco.
Those are part of the traits that convinced North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien to elevate Glennon as the starter when Wilson chose to play baseball in the spring after his junior season.
Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, where he posted a historically high passer rating and led the Badgers to 12 victories and the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, North Carolina State was 15-11 in Glennon's two years as a starter, and O'Brien was fired this offseason.
It's not that Glennon was bad. He threw more than 30 touchdown passes in back-to-back years, but he wasn't like Wilson, either. Line up their résumés side by side, and it's hard to come away with the conclusion Glennon is the better prospect. Not in terms of completion percentage, touchdown passes nor record as a starter. Everything except height.
There is nothing personal about this comparison. Friday, Glennon cited Wilson as a huge influence in his career.
"We got along great," Glennon said during an interview Friday. "I learned a ton from him. Not as much about what he did on the field because we have a little different playing styles, but more the way he carried himself. How he does all the little things the right way."
Yet Glennon is likely to be chosen by the end of the second round and could go as high as the first while Wilson was the sixth quarterback chosen last year, taken No. 75 overall.
It's proof that all things don't have to be equal for height to be the deciding factor.
"For every 5-foot, 10-5/8-inch quarterback you draft," Brandt said, "I don't think you'll find one in a hundred that will have that kind of a career."
Not even Seattle general manager John Schneider — the guy responsible for Seattle's selection of Wilson — could have imagined it would happen that early.
Did he wonder if that would increase the willingness of other teams to consider drafting a quarterback shorter than 6 feet tall?
"Maybe every several years a Drew Brees comes along like that," Schneider said, "and hopefully Russell is one of those guys. But I don't think people are going to go out and necessarily say, 'Hey, we've got to find a 5-foot-10 quarterback.' "
That's not a punch line.
"He's way taller than me," Schneider said, "so I'm not laughing."
The rest of the NFL, however, doesn't appear any more inclined to adjust its gaze a little lower to find a franchise quarterback.
Not when there's 6-7 prospects like Glennon.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @dannyoneil
|Pick or pass?|
|Comparing the college resumes of former teammates Mike Glennon and Russell Wilson:|
|Record as starter||15-11||30-20|
|Career pass yards||7,411||11,720|
|Career rush yards||-292||1,421|