With Derek Carr and Matt McGloin sidelined, rookie Connor Cook will start for the Oakland Raiders in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2002, head coach Jack Del Rio announced Wednesday.
Cook has yet to start a game in his NFL career, which means the Saturday’s matchup against the Houston Texans will mark the rookie quarterback’s first. Notably, Cook is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first pro start in the postseason.
In fact, the only NFL game that Cook has ever played in was Oakland’s loss to Denver in Week 17.
A shoulder injury to McGloin in Oakland’s loss to Denver forced the Raiders’ hand, leaving Cook next in line to command Oakland’s high-flying offense. Cook entered the game and immediately marched Oakland’s offense down the field for a score against Denver’s defense. Prior to Cook’s entering the game, the Raiders had not scored.
For what it’s worth, the rookie looked good against one of the NFL’s best defenses — noticeably better than McGloin, at that. The fourth-round pick out of Michigan State finished the game 14-of-21 passing for 150 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Cook will face an even tougher test this week against the Texans’ top-ranked defense, which allows just over 300 yards per game. The first game of Wild Card Weekend could end up as a defensive battle. Houston doesn’t have stability at the quarterback position, either. Brock Osweiler, who was benched a few weeks ago, is back in the starting lineup after Tom Savage sustained a concussion last week.
The Raiders didn’t have another quarterback on the roster, but on Tuesday, the team added Garrett Gilbert to the practice squad. Gilbert, a sixth-round pick by the Rams in the 2014 NFL draft, has never played a snap in the NFL. It’s likely they will add Gilbert to the active roster prior to the matchup against Houston if McGloin is still too injured to play.
Right now, the Raiders are hoping McGloin can be healthy enough to be the backup:
JDR said playing Cook was an easy option. "He played well and Matt's hurt." Plan is to try and get McGloin healthy to be backup— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 4, 2017
The Raiders were one of the top teams in the NFL all season, but when Carr went down with a broken fibula in Week 16, their hopes of a Super Bowl run took a major hit. However, Oakland still has enough talent to win a playoff game, or even make a playoff run, with a backup quarterback.
With Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree out wide and a standout offensive line in front of him, Cook will have plenty of weapons to work with. Now, it’s up to the backup quarterback to make a name for himself, as well as the rest of the Raiders team to prove they’re the real deal, even without Carr.