Raiders to start Connor Cook at QB against Texans

NFL pre-playoffs power rankings. Getty Images
Raiders to start Connor Cook at QB against Texans

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders are going with rookie Connor Cook at quarterback in their wild-card game against the Texans.

Oakland coach Jack Del Rio announced the decision in a conference call with reporters in Houston on Wednesday.

Cook gets the nod with Pro Bowler Derek Carr out with a broken leg and backup Matt McGloin nursing a shoulder injury that could make it tough for him to practice enough before Saturday's game at Houston. Cook will be the first quarterback ever to make his first career start in the postseason.

Despite appearing in just one game as a rookie, the Raiders (12-4) say Cook showed some "swagger" when he replaced McGloin in the second quarter on Sunday in Denver, and has their confidence heading into the game against the Texans (9-7) because of what they've seen all year.

"It's obviously not ideal, that's why it's never happened where a rookie gets his start in a playoff game," Del Rio said. "But he played well last week and he's the healthiest option so it makes it really an obvious choice."

Del Rio said they hope that McGloin will be healthy enough by Saturday to be Cook's backup, but that he was still "pretty sore" on Wednesday.

Cook was a fourth-round pick this year after a four-year career at Michigan State where he threw for 9,194 yards with 71 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Del Rio said they like the way he's worked and developed since he was drafted and think that his pedigree in big games in college should help on Saturday.

"He won a lot of big games at Michigan State," Del Rio said. "I know this is a different level, but he's got that kind of unflappable feel about him. We're going to trust him to go out and lead us."

Connor Cook to make historic first start for Raiders against Texans

Connor Cook will make his first career start Saturday for the Oakland Raiders in a wild-card playoff game against the Houston Texans.

Cook will become the first quarterback in NFL history whose first start comes in the playoffs.

Cook, a rookie fourth-round pick from Michigan State, was the Raiders’ No. 3 quarterback for 15 games. He became the backup in Week 17 after starter Derek Carr suffered a broken leg on Dec. 24, and he was officially tabbed by head coach Jack Del Rio to start against the Texans after No. 2 quarterback Matt McGloin suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Denver Broncos.

Cook threw for 150 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, after replacing McGloin just before halftime last week in Denver.

"We trust him to go out and lead us," Del Rio said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

Cook acknowledged that he will have some nerves heading into his first start – and that he was even nervous last week when he was active as the backup quarterback for the first time all season. In the first 15 games, Cook arrived at the stadium knowing there was no chance he would play.

Now just two weeks later he’ll be starting in the Raiders’ first postseason game in 14 years.

“I’m just ready [to] embrace this opportunity and give it everything I’ve got,” Cook said Wednesday.

As the Raiders prepare for Saturday’s game, Cook is now getting the bulk of the first-team reps in practice for the first time all year. As the No. 3 quarterback, he previously only tossed passes to the Raiders’ top receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree during position drills early in practices. Now they are trying to create chemistry on an accelerated schedule.

Saturday will mark Cook’s first start at any level since Dec. 31, 2015, when his Michigan State team lost 38-0 to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal. But Cook is going to lean on his time as the Spartans’ starter – and think back to big wins against Michigan and Ohio State last year – as he prepares to face the Texans.

“We played in some big time games there. Going to try to take whatever I did there and put it to use on Saturday,” Cook said.

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