Matt McGloin Does Enough to Force Quarterback Competition for Oakland Raiders

Cian FaheyFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2013

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The Oakland Raiders haven't been married to a single quarterback since the beginning of training camp.

Matt Flynn, who was acquired from the Seattle Seahawks, was expected to be the starter, but Terrelle Pryor took his job before Week 1. Even before then, the Raiders had drafted Tyler Wilson in the fourth round before cutting him in camp.

With Pryor injured this past week, the Raiders were then forced to move onto undrafted free agent Matt McGloin. In Sunday's 28-23 win over the Houston Texans, McGloin came in and threw three touchdown passes in his first NFL start.

His very first pass attempt went for a touchdown, but it's hard to give him too much credit.

The Oakland offense was gifted a short field by their defense after a fumble recovery just a few plays into the game. The Raiders made that short field even shorter with the running game of Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reese, setting the offense up at the goal line.

On 3rd-and-5 at the Houston 5-yard line, the Texans blitzed on the play, leaving plenty of space for the Raiders receivers to work in. Whether from fortune or preparation, the offensive coaching staff had the perfect play called.


The Raiders initially had three receivers to the right and one to the left. Denarius Moore was on the outside of the trio to the right and he was McGloin's first read.

Moore is running a shallow slant route underneath the slot receiver immediately inside of him. That receiver, Rod Streater, runs toward the pylon to draw the attention of the two defensive backs outside. This, combined with Mychal Rivera, who ran straight down the seam from his inside slot position, created a window for Moore to walk into the end zone for a touchdown.

McGloin did what he was supposed to in the play, but, in the context, he also doesn't deserve much credit.

The degree of difficulty of this throw couldn't be lower. McGloin wasn't under pressure in the pocket. He didn't have to force the ball into a tight window. He didn't have to extend the play. He didn't have to leave his first read. He didn't have to throw with anticipation. And he didn't have to push the ball down the field. It was a play you would expect every NFL-caliber quarterback to make.

On the next drive, he did push the ball past the first-down marker with an accurate throw, but Reece dropped the ball down the seam.

After that, the Raiders ran an end-around from a wildcat formation that took McGloin away from the ball. A penalty on that play put them in second and very long, when McGloin couldn't bring them back to the first down marker.

Another interception from Keenum gave the Raiders the ball in the red zone again. Instead of pounding the ball with the running game this time, McGloin immediately came out throwing. Again, his first pass of the drive went for a touchdown and this time, it wasn't an easy play.


On 1st-and-10 from the Texans 16, the Raiders come out with a similar formation to the one that resulted in their first touchdown. Moore is the lone receiver to the bottom of the screen this time, with Streater highlighted at the top of the screen. Vitally, the Texans are showing off coverage at the snap, with each of their cornerbacks deep with their safeties.


McGloin throws the ball with anticipation as he releases the ball before Streater comes out of his break at the top of his route. The young quarterback understands that Streater should come free on his route because Johnathan Joseph was playing off coverage and backed off after the snap. At this point, McGloin has made all the right decisions, he just has to throw an accurate pass.


The ball is slightly high, but McGloin puts it in a position where only his receiver can go and get the ball. It's a very impressive play from the debutante.

On the next drive, McGloin made a quick decision after play-action to get the ball past an unblocked defender. That set up a 3rd-and-2, but the Raiders couldn't convert with a run between the tackles.

After the Texans scored their first touchdown, McGloin opened the next drive with a deep pass to Andre Holmes down the sideline. It was a big, flashy play on a good pass from the quarterback, but Holmes deserves most of the credit for fully extending over a defender to make a really tough reception.

Similarly, McGloin can't be blamed for his next two attempts that fell incomplete. The Texans brought pressure, but McGloin stood tall and delivered the ball accurately down the field. His receivers were both well covered, but he gave them a chance to make a play that they never seized.

A run for a loss set the next drive in motion, before McGloin found Rivera on a quick out with a crisp throw. That put the offense in 3rd-and-6, but McGloin couldn't convert as he overthrew Moore on a slant route that should have been intercepted by Johnathan Joseph. On the next drive, McGloin attempted one pass on another 3rd-and-6. This time he threw behind a wide open Moore to bring on the punting team.

McGloin took a 10-yard sack to start their final meaningful drive of the first half, before he had one completion underneath and a handoff to Jennings to settle for another punt.

To start the third quarter, McGloin did well to step up in the pocket and find Streater on a crossing route for a first down. The Raiders ran the ball twice to set up a 3rd-and-Short. McGloin was very lucky on this play as he forced a pass without looking to Moore running a slant route.


McGloin initially tried to hold the linebacker in the middle of the field with his eyes, but it's clear that he wasn't really concentrating on what he was looking at but rather how his fake looked because he never saw the linebacker running underneath. The quarterback threw the ball straight to the linebacker who was unlucky not to come away with an interception that likely would have been a touchdown the other way.

In the third quarter, with his team trailing by three points, McGloin again came out throwing. Immediately after almost throwing an interception, McGloin looked down field, pump-faked to manipulate the defense, before hanging a ball up in the air for his receiver to go and get again. It wasn't the greatest throw, as he let the ball go while falling backwards so it came out somewhat limp, but it was enough for his receiver to gain big yardage.

With a better throw, the Raiders may have had a touchdown though.

Two plays later, with his next throw, McGloin nearly made an outstanding play against the blitz. He looked comfortable against pressure all throughout the game, but this play in particular was almost perfect.

He held the ball just long enough to hold the deep safety in the middle of the field, before turning to his left and unleashing the ball down the sideline to Holmes. McGloin slightly overthrew the pass, so Holmes couldn't catch it, but considering he was hit by J.J. Watt as soon as he let the ball go it was still a very impressive play.

On the very next play, McGloin showed good pocket presence to step up into a clean area before throwing a dart to Marcel Reese through a tight window for a first down.

That wasn't his most impressive play of the day however. That play would come soon after on 1st-and-20.


Even though it's 1st-and-20, the Raiders are already comfortably in field-goal range and they are losing by three points, so it's worth being aggressive. They immediately put the ball in McGloin's hands and ask him to make that big play. He will eventually throw the ball to his tight end Rivera, who is lined up to the left side of the offensive line, but he will be forced to show plenty of patience before letting the ball go.


When McGloin gets to the top of his drop, he immediately wants to let the ball go. He ultimately does what looks like a pump-fake, but seemingly was an attempt to throw the ball before he changed his mind. McGloin seemingly kept his eyes on Rivera throughout the play and instead of panicking, he shifted to his left and let the ball go from a poor body position with Watt in his face.

Just to this point in the play, McGloin showed good poise, agility and intelligence to give himself a chance to make a play down the field.


The actions that precede the throw give Rivera enough time to separate himself from man coverage, before the throw itself is perfect for Rivera to run underneath. Unlike his first touchdown pass, this one couldn't have been much more difficult. McGloin showed off an NFL-caliber arm and the poise that is required to play quarterback at this level of football.

With any young, undrafted quarterback making his debut, the question is always about talent. Mistakes will come, as they inevitably do with every young quarterback, but if the talent is there it at least gives the coaching staff something to work with.

McGloin's performance Sunday puts the Raiders in a melancholic position. They now have two young players with the talent to be NFL starters, but they must decide who to move forward with.

Fortunately for the Raiders, they don't have to worry so much about the short term but rather the long term instead.

Terrelle Pryor hasn't done enough to guarantee himself the starting job entering next season, but he has done more than enough to deserve a chance to earn that spot or he likely will end up elsewhere as a starter next season.

McGloin doesn't have the same potential as Pryor and he definitely benefited from some outside influences today such as favorable field position and big plays in the running game, but he has made a case to be given another opportunity.

It's an odd time of the year to be thinking about a quarterback competition, but the Raiders may be best suited to spend the next month or so figuring out if either of these quarterbacks can be their answer for next season.

Many will want to anoint McGloin now, because that is the reactionary world we live in, but the reality is that one game doesn't make a career.

Those thinking it's McGloin's time already need just look across the sidelines to Keenum, who was benched for Matt Schaub in this game after playing relatively impressive football this season as an undrafted free agent.

Cian Fahey writes the Film Room column for Football Outsiders, the Pushing the Pocket column for Football Guys and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf