When the Raiders and Jets play Sunday in New Jersey, the matchup will feature a stark contrast in quarterbacks.
Both the Raiders’ Matt McGloin and the Jets’ Geno Smith are rookies of course – but with far different pedigrees.
Smith, a highly productive star at West Virginia who was taken by the Jets in the second round this April, signed a four-year, $5 million contract this July. Under the media microscope in New York, Smith ascended to become the Jets’ starter, and won his very first game over Tampa Bay, throwing for 256 yards and a TD.
But since that debut, Smith’s road has been rocky. In 12 games this season, he’s completed 179 of 327 throws (54.7 percent) for 2,256 yards and eight TDs. But he’s also thrown 19 interceptions and fumbled four times and has a quarterback rating of 60.4.
McGloin, meanwhile, was an afterthought for NFL teams coming out of Penn State and went undrafted. The Raiders signed him as a free agent, essentially as an extra arm for training camp, but he surpassed fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson this summer, earned a roster spot and then advanced past Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor to become the team’s starting quarterback.
McGloin received less than a third of the money Smith received, signing a three-year deal for $1,485,000.
In four games, McGloin has completed 56.9 percent of his passes (62-of-109) for 799 yards and four TDs with just two picks, and has a quarterback rating of 84.6.
McGloin’s future is still not certain. Pryor, slowed by injury, is healthy again and waiting in the wings. And the Raiders could certainly go after a quarterback in next year’s draft or free agency. But for now, at least, McGloin has played well enough to keep his job and has gone 1-2 as a starter.
“I don’t think he’s done anything to play himself out of that position,” said Raiders head coach Dennis Allen this week.
The Jets, meanwhile, also aren’t quite sure what they have in Smith. They like his demeanor and his athletic ability and believe in his long-term potential. Said one NFL executive this week to the New York Daily News: “I like him. He has no weapons around him and is pressing to make plays. You just hope his current play doesn’t affect his confidence going forward.”
One thing seems certain: both young quarterbacks will be tested when the Raiders (4-8) and Jets (5-7) clash.
McGloin will face a Jets defense that ranks 12th in total defense; Smith will go against a Raiders team that has been much stronger this season and ranks No. 19 overall.
McGloin will be looking to upgrade his performance on Thanksgiving in a loss to the Cowboys. He was strong in the first half, going 11-of-14 for 146 yards; in the second half he was 7-of-15 for 104 yards and threw a painful interception.
“Things weren’t clicking,” he told the Bay Area News Group of his poor second half. “You can’t win when that happens.”
On Sunday, the Raiders and Jets will both be looking for more solid outings from their young QBs.