Houston (CBS Houston) – Oakland will make history Saturday when they start rookie quarterback Connor Cook in the AFC wild-card game against the Texans. It’ll be the first time in NFL history that a rookie makes his first career start in a playoff game.
Cook, who was a standout quarterback at Michigan State, slipped to the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft in large part due to concerns about his leadership. There is the fact that he wasn’t a captain at Michigan State despite being the quarterback. Then there are the rumors about his dad being a bit overbearing to the point NFL teams wanted to stay away.
It’s safe to say Cook is probably more talented than where he was selected in the draft. A few draft websites had Cook projected as a potential second round pick.
How the Raiders and Cook got to this point is a bit of a miracle. It took leadership concerns for Cook to slide to a round the Raiders could select him despite having a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr. It took Carr to break his leg on Christmas Eve against the Colts. It took a combination of poor play and an injury from Matt McGloin for Cook to get a chance to show his ability in Week 17.
“We’ve seen things throughout our time having him where he’s developed as a young player, kind of in the background as the third quarterback all year. He won a lot of big games at Michigan State, I know this is a different level, but he’s got that unflappable feel about him. We’re going to trust him to go out and lead us,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Last week against the Broncos McGloin made the start for the injured Carr. McGloin wasn’t good as he completed six of his eleven pass for 21 yards and left the game when he injured his left, non-throwing shoulder. Cook would replace McGloin late in the first half and was decent. He finished 14/21 for 150 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off once and lost a fumble.
“It’s obviously not ideal. It’s why it’s never happened where a rookie gets his first start in a playoff game,” Del Rio said. “He played well last week, and he’s the healthiest option, so it makes it an obvious choice.”