Why Raiders are better off with Connor Cook than Matt McGloin

When the Oakland Raiders lost MVP candidate Derek Carr to a season-ending broken fibula in Week 16, their Super Bowl hopes seemingly went up in smoke.

Even then, the most optimistic fans held out hope that backup Matt McGloin could lead an improbable run through the postseason. But that was before McGloin left a spotty Week 17 performance with a shoulder injury.

So now, with rookie Connor Cook slated to become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first NFL start in the playoffs, the Raiders might as well pack it in and focus on next season, right?

Not so fast.

I’m not trying to steal a line from a famous broadcaster, but I believe the Raiders are better served with their third-string quarterback than they would be with a veteran backup with a pop-gun arm and a stomach full of jitters.

No disrespect to McGloin and what he has accomplished after entering the league as an undrafted free agent, but the game looked too big for him during the Raiders‘ regular-season finale, and I can’t imagine him effectively handling the pressure of playing in a high-stakes playoff bout against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

That’s why I believe that, after the soul-crushing injury to Carr, fate might’ve dealt the Raiders a winning hand when it came to who would replace the MVP candidate in the postseason, with Cook being forced into the lineup. The rookie is not only a superior talent as a passer/playmaker to McGloin, but he’s built to play in high-pressure moments based on his experience at Michigan State. During his time as a Spartan, Cook posted a 34-5 mark as a starter, with a 4-1 mark in postseason play. Although he tossed an interception in each of his postseason appearances, he still managed to routinely get his team to the winner’s circle, which is ultimately the goal of the quarterback.

Looking back at my notes prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, I thought Cook’s awareness and management skills were his biggest strengths as a player. As the director of a pro-style offense that placed a number of responsibilities on the quarterback to make “check with me” calls or audibles based on defensive fronts or coverage, Cook was exposed to some of the nuances that are routine for NFL quarterbacks. In addition, he was taught how to play complementary football in a program that has produced a number of NFL quarterbacks in recent years (such as Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer and Drew Stanton). As a result, Cook concluded his college career with a high touchdown-to-interception ratio (71:22) and learned the importance of…