Quarterback Matt McGloin
Matt McGloin isn't riding shotgun with a clipboard and an earpiece anymore. As a result of Derek Carr's broken fibula, he now he has the keys to the car, and is tasked with driving one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL into the postseason.
McGloin has just six career starts to his name, and has played sparingly since his rookie campaign in Silver and Black concluded in 2013, but the former Penn State Nittany Lion has approached his preparation week in and week out as if he were going to take the field. Just ask his quarterbacks coach Todd Downing.
"He has prepared like he's the starter every single week I've been with him," said Downing of McGloin. "He's dialed in. He's focused. He just happens to now have the steering wheel in his hand, as opposed to watching from the passenger's seat."
The fourth-year quarterback hasn't started a game since December 2013, but following Derek Carr's injury last week in the win over the Indianapolis Colts, McGloin is set to enter the spotlight once again, and keep a Raiders offense, that currently ranks in the top 10 in the NFL, moving as it prepares to enter the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Before his injury, Carr was playing at an MVP level, enjoying a highly productive campaign in 2016 before a Trent Cole sack on 2nd and 22 instantly changed the course of his, and the team's, season. In the days since Carr's injury, there have understandably been questions raised about how effective the Raiders offense will be going forward without No. 4 under center, but Downing thinks that instead the focus should be on McGloin, and how he has the intangibles to lead the offensive attack as they prepare for their matchup against the Denver Broncos and beyond.
"Matt has a lot more attributes than people realize," Downing explained. "When Matt has had to go in, in place of Derek, it's been Derek's game plan, so you've seen him executing plays that were kind of designed with Derek in mind. He's a very good leader. He's definitely embraced that role, even in the backup quarterback spot. He knows his teammates well, knows what they need, what they don't need, knows how to motivate, and knows how to get on guys and get them dialed in."
At this point, McGloin's story has been retold ad nauseam, but to be fair it's a pretty entertaining read. The fiery signal-caller walked on at Penn State, only to finish his career as the school record holder for touchdowns and efficiency rating, but was still not invited to the NFL Combine following his senior season in Happy Valley.
From there, McGloin wasn't selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, but signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent, entering training camp as the fourth quarterback on the depth chart before eventually taking over the starting role, appearing in seven games with six starts as a rookie. He became the first Raiders rookie quarterback to win his first start since larry Lawrence in 1974 with a win over the Texans in Houston.
McGloin hasn't had any easy road to the NFL, there's no doubt about that, but ask his teammates, and playing with that chip on his shoulder is why he's become so endeared to the players in the Raiders locker room.
"He has faced a lot of adversity throughout his career, that just shows how willing he is to accept the challenge, and accept any hurdle, obstacle, on his way to overcome it," rookie lineman Vadal Alexander said. "He's a guy who has a lot of confidence in himself to overcome the odds against him."
"He's definitely a fiery and competitive guy," added Downing. "I remember the first time we stopped on the field together, I thought, 'Jeez, this guy's passionate.' He's really learned to harness that emotion towards a positive, motivating factor. I think he's done a really nice job of cleaning up some technique and fundamental stuff, just to keep improving his game week after week, and he's committed to the process."
While saying the odds are stacked against McGloin at this juncture might be a tad hyperbolic – the Raiders are still a 12-3 team a win away from securing a division title and a first-round bye – the former undrafted free agent is certainly entering a unique situation as he's now being asked to step in and pilot a team that has lofty postseason aspirations, as he enters the fray in the final week of the regular season, at the most scrutinized position in all of sports no less.
That being said, there's no concern that the moment, really at any point going forward, will be too big for the man from Scranton, Pa. In fact Downing believes that McGloin's biggest challenge will be readjusting to the off-the-field challenges of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.
"Honestly I think that's it, just managing that extra responsibilities, the media, all the different questions he's facing, whether it's getting family to the game, setting up their tickets, people coming in to watch him, all that kind of stuff can be a little foreign to the backup, but as far as the moment being too big for him, that's not going to be an issue," Downing explained. "Matt is a highly-competitive guy, who's been in a lot of big games in college. He started [six] games as a rookie here. This moment is not going to be too big for him. He's going to enjoy it, and he's going to step up to the challenge."
McGloin is now his fourth season as an NFL quarterback, and while it's easy to dwell on the fact that Derek Carr won't be under center for the foreseeable future, instead, take solace in the fact that McGloin has just as much experience in the team's offensive system as Carr, and will put in a position to thrive going forward.
"He's going to be a great leader," Alexander said. "He leads men. You can feel it when he gets in the huddle, the presence he has. He's a natural guy who's meant to play quarterback."
And that's good, because if the Raiders want to make a run to the postseason they'll be doing so with McGloin driving the car.