Raiders quarterback Connor Cook received an education in his first season in the NFL.
The former Michigan State standout, a fourth-round pick of Oakland in last year’s draft, mostly was a forgotten man on the roster. With starter Derek Carr playing so well he was considered a league MVP candidate and Matt McGloin the established backup, Cook didn’t play a single down through the first 15 games and rarely took snaps in practice.
His job was to work, watch and learn.
But after Carr went down with a season-ending injury in Game 15 on Dec. 24, McGloin took over. And when McGloin was hurt in Game 16, Cook was thrown into the fire.
Cook was 14-of-21 passing for 150 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his emergency appearance vs. the Broncos in the regular-season finale. Then he was forced to start in the Raiders’ playoff game vs. Houston and had a miserable time, throwing three interceptions, being sacked three times and completing just 18-of-45 passes for 161 yards in defeat.
His statistics ranked among the lowest ever in a first-ever NFL start, according to the pro football analytic website Number Fire.
Now, with a few weeks to reflect, Cook has said his overall first-year experience was “good.”
He said he had a chance to learn through meetings and mental reps in practice before he suddenly found himself in a game.
“It’s a thing that tells you that no matter what you do in the NFL, you’ve always got to be ready,” Cook told Graham Couch of the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal this week. “If you’re the third-string (QB), if you’re on the practice squad. All of a sudden one person gets hurt, you’ve got to be ready when your number gets called.”
Cook could be the No. 3 QB again next season, or he could move up to No. 2. McGloin may leave in free agency. The Raiders then could either bring in a veteran as the primary backup and to compete with Cook.
The biggest point that Cook says was hammered home to him in his first season with the Raiders is that the NFL is a profession, and to succeed he has to put in the work and continue to improve.
“It’s strictly a business, and there are guys on the practice squad that come in and one day he’ll be in the locker room and all of a sudden the next day he’s gone,” Cook told Couch. “Everyone is always working. No one is ever complacent. No one is ever satisfied. Someone is always gunning for your job, no matter if you’re a four-time Pro Bowler or a 12-year vet. There’s no real certainty for anything.
“So everyone is working their tails off at practice, just so they can have their job secured. That’s the biggest thing. It’s a little bit different than college. I mean, guys have families to feed.”