With the fifth pick in the draft and some money to spend, Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie are eager to put Al Davis‘ mistakes to bed once and for all, while putting their own mark on the franchise. And with so many lingering questions surrounding the team, there is no shortage in areas of need. However, both Allen and McKenzie seem to be of the opinion that the quarterback position is the most pressing question facing the Raiders. Both are already on record as saying that they don’t believe their franchise quarterback is “in the house.” With respect to both, they’re absolutely wrong about that.
Matt McGloin, the undrafted free agent, can very well be the answer to the quarterback position Allen and McKenzie are searching for. McGloin not only beat out draft pick Tyler Wilson and free agent acquisition Matt Flynn, but in his six games as the starter, he proved to be the best quarterback on the roster. While Terrelle Pryor is a remarkable athlete and can certainly make some amazing plays with his legs, he leaves a lot to be desired as a quarterback. Pryor has no pocket awareness, he fails to read through his progressions, has trouble reading defenses, holds the ball way too long and is ultimately a run first quarterback. Successful teams are the ones with a solid pocket passer. Ask the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts, the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers or even the Philadelphia Eagles. Their quarterbacks have a solid awareness of the pocket, can read their progressions, and the defenses and can get rid of the ball quickly. In his limited time, McGloin proved that he can do all of that.
This is not to say that McGloin didn’t make mistakes, he made plenty. Most of them, however, can be explained by the fact that he was a rookie who was thrown into the fire in Week 11 without the benefit of having taken many first team reps. Despite that, McGloin acquitted himself very well, throwing for more than 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns in six games as the starter. More importantly, with McGloin under center, the offense looked like something resembling a real NFL offense. With McGloin in the game, the Raiders moved the chains and scored an average of 24 points per game. Under Pryor, the squad averaged just a tick over 20 points per game.
McGloin’s critics most often point to the debacle in Kansas City in which he turned the ball over five times. Certainly, it wasn’t one of his better efforts, but what his critics overlook is that despite his miscues, McGloin still threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns. Furthermore, he led the team on five scoring drives and dropped 31 points on one of the best defenses in the NFL. The defense allowed a staggering 56 points and was burned on a number of long scoring tosses. It wasn’t McGloin’s interceptions that cost the Raiders that game, it was the inability of the defense to stop Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles. Lest McGloin’s critics forget, the score was 35-31 late in the third quarter, just before Charles ripped the defense for a 71-yard touchdown.
It’s tempting to pin the Raiders’ poor showing the last few seasons on the play of the quarterbacks. But in truth, there are many different layers to their abysmal play. And while taking a Johnny Manziel or a Teddy Bridgewater might be a sexy pick, a pick Allen and McKenzie might be feeling pressured to pull the trigger on, it also might set the franchise back even more. Neither of those quarterbacks are a guaranteed success. And without the weapons around them like a solid offensive line, consistent receivers, dangerous running backs, and a defense that can stop somebody, they’re sure to fail.
Raider fans don’t want to hear it, but McGloin can be the answer to their quarterbacking woes. Give him an entire offseason to immerse himself in the playbook and a preseason with the first team. Bring in the pieces he needs to succeed. If Allen and McKenzie can resist the urge to put their mark on the franchise by making the sexy pick and instead make the smart, solid picks in the draft, they just might find that their franchise quarterback has been in the house all along.