Until Sunday’s regular-season loss to the Broncos, Raiders rookie quarterback Connor Cook had just been a spectator in 2016.
He hadn’t been activated for a single game, let alone been on the field. But with the injuries to Derek Carr Dec. 24 and Matt McGloin Sunday, there was Cook, on the field, leading the Raiders.
His play was uneven, as might be expected. But it actually was a better performance than the one put on by McGloin, who had to leave with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury just before halftime.
Now, as the 12-4 Raiders prepare for their first playoff game since the 2002 season – against the Houston Texans Saturday – the question is, who will start for the Raiders at quarterback?
McGloin told the media after Sunday’s game that he’s going to do whatever he can to be ready Saturday. And, head coach Jack Del Rio indicated that if McGloin is healthy, he’d likely be the starter.
Said McGloin: “I plan on being 100 percent healthy. I’ll do everything I can in the training room and the weight room this week to get myself back to 100 percent.”
McGloin certainly has a reputation as a competitor and tough player. But in their play against Denver Sunday, McGloin and Cook produced far different results.
McGloin was just 6-of-11 passing for a paltry 21 yards – 3.5 yards per completion – and missed a wide-open Amari Cooper on a deep throw that would have been a touchdown. While McGloin was in the game, the Raiders offense was punchless and scoreless.
Cook, on the other hand, was 14-of-21 for 150 yards – 10.7 yards per completion – with a touchdown, interception and fumble. As the game progressed, Cook settled in and looked like a much more effective quarterback. As Kevin Patra of NFL.com noted, “McGloin did not look good. The fourth-year quarterback was scatter-shot.”
Patra wrote that Cook showed a good arm, ability to move in the pocket and make his reads. “He led the Raiders’ only scoring drive with some solid darts,” wrote Patra.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Cook also handled pressure better than McGloin. Against the Blitz Sunday, McGloin was 1-of-5 passing for 3 yards. Cook was 4-of-5 when blitzed for 65 yards and a touchdown.
If McGloin isn’t able to play Saturday, Cook would be the first quarterback to start a playoff game without starting a regular-season game since 1966, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, notes Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com.
But, Del Rio will wait to make his decision.
“Obviously, (McGloin) has more experience in our system, a little bit longer,” Del Rio told the media after Sunday’s loss. “But I thought Connor did a nice job with the opportunities that he had.”
Saturday’s game at NRG Stadium in Houston against the 9-7 Texans is scheduled to kick off at 1:35 p.m. in the Bay Area. Oddsmakers have made the Texans 2½- to 3-point favorites.