Quarterback Connor Cook
In the end, Head Coach Jack Del Rio elected to go with health over experience.
Less than two weeks after being listed as the third quarterback on the Oakland Raiders depth chart, and just three days after making his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos, Connor Cook will be the starting quarterback when the Silver and Black take on the Houston Texans Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium.
“We are going to start Connor this weekend,” said Head Coach Jack Del Rio Wednesday afternoon. “We want him to just be himself and go out and do what he can do, and then want our team to go out and do what it can do.”
Not only will Cook start the first Raiders playoff game in 14 years, but he’ll also make a little bit of history himself, as he’ll become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in a postseason game.
“I’m just embracing the opportunity, going to go out there, have fun, just let it all hang out, and obviously prepare my butt off,” Cook said. “Do what I’ve been doing all season long, and just go out there and have fun with my teammates.”
After Matt McGloin left in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, Cook was called upon to finish the game for the Raiders, playing the final 32 offensive snaps, throwing for 150 yards and one touchdown in his NFL debut.
That touchdown – the lone points the Raiders were able to manufacture Sunday afternoon – came in the form of a 32-yard touchdown to wide receiver Amari Cooper, and going forward No. 89 is confident in Cook’s ability to lead the Raiders offense.
“He’s tall,” Cooper said of Cook. “He can see the field. He’s just confident out there. He was just ripping them, making throws, stepping up in the pocket. I think he did a really good job.”
Cook’s performance wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but the rookie signal-caller did look comfortable moving the offense, and that’s why Del Rio decided to give him the nod Saturday.
“It’s really an easy option,” Del Rio sated. “He played pretty well when he went in, and Matt’s hurt. We’re hoping to get Matt back healthy enough to be in a backup role, so right now that remains the question."
The winningest quarterback in Michigan State history, Cook went 34-5 in his three years as a starter, and was named the 2015 Big Ten Quarterback of the Year.
The Raiders selected him in the fourth round (No. 100) overall of the 2016 NFL Draft.