2016 Stats: 14-21, 66.7 percent completions, 150 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 83.4 QB rating
In a game with major playoff implications, the Oakland Raiders starting quarterback Matt McGloin was taken out of the game due to a shoulder injury. With that, former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook (2011-15) entered his first NFL game in his career late in the second quarter.
Cook was redshirted his freshman year at Michigan State, and was a backup to Andrew Maxwell the year after. Cook appeared in three games that year including the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where he helped lead a comeback over TCU. In 2013, Cook started every game except the opener, and led the Spartans to a Big Ten Championship win over Ohio State, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford.
The next year, he led the team to another outstanding season. Ending that season with a Cotton Bowl win over Baylor, and the team finished ranked fifth in the nation.
In his senior season, MSU was once again in the Big Ten Championship, defeating Iowa. The team would then go on to play in the first ever college football playoff against Alabama. Cook currently holds the school record in wins and total yards.
After a disappointing first few days of the NFL draft, Cook was finally picked by Oakland in the fourth round. Cook was thought to be one of the best physically talented players in the draft, and yet was the seventh quarterback drafted.
“I think I’m one of the best quarterbacks in this draft class. But nothing is ever easy and nothing is ever perfect.” Cook told the Lansing State Journal a few days before the draft. “Going on to the NFL, it’s definitely going to get a little bit harder and more difficult. It’s definitely not going to be easy.”
To add to the shock, the Raiders already had a promising quarterback in Derek Carr, who was on his way to turning the program around. Not only that, but they also had Matt McGloin, who is a reliable backup. With this being the case, Cook was third string on the depth chart until week 16 when Carr was injured with a broken fibula, bumping Cook to backup and McGloin to starter.
The next week against the Denver Broncos, Oakland was playing for a division title and a bye week in the first round of the playoffs.
As stated earlier, McGloin was injured in the second quarter with the Broncos already leading by 17 points. Cook entered the game and threw the only Raider touchdown of the game to Amari Cooper. Denver went on to win the game 24-6, and Oakland, who will now have to travel to Houston this weekend, ended up with the fifth seed in the AFC.
After the game, Cook told ESPN how he felt about his first performance.
“Felt pretty good to get out there and get some reps, trying to get the timing down with the receivers, but obviously not the way we wanted it to go,” he said.
It isn’t clear how serious the injury to McGloin’s shoulder is, but should he not be able to play, Cook will be starting. If this is the case, he will be the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have his first start be in the playoffs.