With the playoff bound Raiders now without Derek Carr at quarterback, the rest of the NFL has been scrambling for what to make of Matt McGloin, who will be looked upon to lead the Raiders’ high powered offensive attack.
Raiders fans have been going through the stages of grief since Saturday trying to cope with the situation. Best not to spend too much time on the first six stages and move right to acceptance.
McGloin has been with the Raiders his entire NFL career since joining the team as a tryout player prior to the 2013 season. He even started six games as a rookie prior to the drafting of Derek Carr in 2014.
To get a good idea of what kind of quarterback the Raiders have in McGloin, there are few people more appropriate to ask than Greg Olson who was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator during McGloin and Carr’s rookie seasons in Oakland.
Olson spoke with Albert Breer on the MMQB podcast Tuesday and shared his thoughts on McGloin, starting with the moment he first set foot on the Raiders practice field for workouts.
“I’ll never forget the day that we brought him in for a workout,” said Olson. “There was myself, [Director of Player Personnel] Joey Clinkscales and [General Manager] Reggie McKenzie. We were all looking at him from different areas of the field, but at the end of the workout we came together and I’ll never forget Joey look at me and said ‘I know which one you like right now’ and I said ‘yeah’. I think all three when we came together it was obvious which was the best workout candidate between the three quarterbacks that we brought in that day.”
McGloin was so memorable, Olson had to search for the names of the two other quarterbacks in the workout. They were former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, and former third round pick out of Stanford, Trent Edwards, who was famously who Lane Kiffin wanted to select in the second round had he not been overruled by Al Davis who wanted Jamarcus Russell.
So, how did the undrafted McGloin outshine those two former highly regarded NFL prospects?
“He had real strong mechanics and he was extremely accurate in the workout that we brought him in on,” Olson continued. “So it was an easy decision for us on the day we brought him in just based on the ability to throw the football from point A to point B. Extremely accurate player and after we signed him he continued to be that player for us.”
“I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by Matt, but he was very impressive in that workout. Extremely impressed with how he threw the football in terms of his accuracy and how he got the ball out quickly.”
Making the offseason roster in a tryout is one thing. Making the team out of camp is another. Just as McGloin had been chosen ahead of the two drafted quarterbacks in the workout, he would soon beat out the Raiders own fourth round rookie Tyler Wilson for a roster spot. And by midseason, he was the last man standing ahead of trade acquisition Matt Flynn and former third round pick Terrelle Pryor.
How did he do that?
“Arm talent’s number one. You’re always looking at that,” said Olson. “You could have the most intelligent player in the world but if you can’t fit the ball into tight windows, he’s not gonna have an opportunity to play. So, always believe accuracy is number one and he’s certainly showcased that. On top of that, he’s an extremely competitive player and an extremely competitive person. I think that brought a tremendous amount of belief from his teammates and the coaching staff.
“He’s a very confident player, again he’s intelligent player, so a lot of those things don’t show up in a workout but once you get him in the building, you get around the coaching staff and get around the players, I think everybody just kinda bought into him as a leader and as a quarterback and as somebody on the football team. A lot of it was in his work ethic and as a self-starter and there’s a lot of adjectives you can use to describe Matt, but a lot of it is he’s a self-made player and I think a lot of players on that team respect that.”
What Olson means by a ‘self-made player’ is the fact that McGloin has never had anything handed to him. He was intent on playing for Penn State out of high school, but they weren’t intent on him, so he had to walk on. After making the squad, each season the coaches chose a more physically gifted passer over him. That was until the big scandal that ousted Joe Paterno as well as had many of the players he recruited transferring to other schools.
Bill O’Brien came in as the new head coach and McGloin was the last man standing at quarterback. All he did was set school records that season for the Nittany Lions. Even still, there was no interest from the NFL. He had tryouts in Washington and Carolina but went unsigned. Then the Raiders came calling and they saw something in him others didn’t.
“There’s an edge about him. And he’s always had that edge,” said Olson. “I believe even the day he was brought in for the tryout, he just had an aura of confidence about him and a competitive edge about him. You can talk to any player or coach in that building right now and I believe they would describe him the same; as extremely competitive, plays with a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove.”
McGloin will need every bit of that confidence and edge in order to keep the Raiders on track. Their game in Denver to close out the season is a good start. A win there and the Raiders take the division with a first round bye. A loss would most likely mean losing the division and playing on the road in Houston in the division round.
I have seen some suggest the Raiders should scramble to add a proven starting quarterback off the street. Names like Mike Vick and Peyton Manning have been thrown around. But changing quarterbacks now would be ludicrous. McGloin is the ‘next man up’ for a reason. And the best situation for the Raiders right now is to have a guy who is familiar with the offense and has been in the room with Carr his entire career.
There is really no other choice but to give the reins over to McGloin. But there’s a big difference between accepting the inevitable and truly believing there won’t be a big dropoff with McGloin as the new starter and this team can continue to have success.
“Well, certainly you can’t minimize the loss of Derek Carr with how well he’s been playing,” said Olson, who made it clear that Carr is a rare elite level quarterback and MVP candidate. “But, I believe that that staff believes in Matt and I know that that locker room believes in Matt. A lot of the traits they have are similar. I think they’re both… [McGloin] is an extremely accurate quarterback. He makes good decisions, I think he’s played really well in the preseason when he’s had opportunities to play. Obviously he’s developed in the time since I was there, so I’m sure they’re very confident in his abilities going forward. The only concern is the lack of playing time that he’s had. But I’m sure he’s developed and I’m sure he’s very familiar with Bill Musgrave’s system and what they’re doing offensively. Although they’re two different players, I believe there are a lot of similarities.”
Olson added that McGloin also gets the ball out quickly, evidenced by his having been sacked just six times in six games as a rookie despite having a ragtag offensive line consisting of left tackle Khalif Barnes, guards Lucas Nix and Mike Brisiel, and right tackle Tony Pashos.
Even now, Olson said McGloin “could probably be starting for a lot of football teams this season.” The Raiders valued him enough this offseason to slap him with a round two RFA tender so he wasn’t signed away by another team. Rookie fourth round pick Connor Cook has been inactive all season as the third quarterback.
I know there are some Raiders fans who still hold an irrational grudge about McGloin due to having chosen ‘sides’ in the debate between who was better between he and Pryor. That debate was always ridiculous. The Raiders chose the quarterback of the two. And since then they have continued to choose McGloin over all comers time and time again. There’s a reason for that.