ALAMEDA — While the Oakland Raiders are giving no official word who will start at quarterback for their first playoff game in 14 years, the players are ready to go into the postseason behind rookie Connor Cook.
With Pro Bowler Derek Carr out with a broken leg and backup Matt McGloin nursing a shoulder injury that could make it tough for him to practice enough before Saturday’s game at Houston, Cook looks like he will get the chance. He would become the first quarterback ever to make his first career start in the postseason.
Despite appearing in just one game as a rookie, the Raiders (12-4) say Cook showed some “swagger” when he replaced McGloin in the second quarter on Sunday in Denver, and has their confidence heading into the game against the Texans (9-7) because of what they’ve seen all year.
“Every day after practice Connor’s been out there working on his throws and trying to get better,” rookie running back Jalen Richard said Tuesday. “It really shows he’s always been prepared for this moment and his moment finally came. I look forward to seeing him out there Saturday and playing well.”
The Raiders held a walkthrough off-site on Tuesday that was not open to the media and do not have to issue a participation report about who is healthy enough to practice until Wednesday.
Cook showed some positive signs when he replaced McGloin in Sunday’s 24-6 loss at Denver that cost the Raiders a chance at the division title and a first-round bye. Cook completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a 32-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper. He did turn over the ball twice with a fumble and interception. But he moved the offense much more effectively than McGloin did with just 21 yards passing on 11 attempts.
“I think he did a pretty good job, especially to come in having not played all year,” Cooper said. “He did a really nice job going through his reads, stepping up in the pocket and making good throws.”
Cook had a successful college career at Michigan State, but there were questions heading into the draft about his leadership because he was not voted a team captain as a senior.
That, combined with a poor performance in a playoff loss to Alabama when he played with a sore throwing shoulder, contributed to him slipping to the fourth round.
Oakland traded up to get him, moving ahead of Dallas. The Cowboys then ended up with Dak Prescott, who led the team to the top seed in the NFC.
Now Cook could join him as a rookie playoff starter.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a phone interview.
“There will be a great deal of adversity at a very high level of competition. What he did for us, at a completely different level so it’s all relative, was played his best in the biggest games. The exception was last year’s playoff game because I think he was hurt.”