Connor Cook will boldy go where only one man before him has gone in the storied 57-year history of the Oakland Raiders.
Come Saturday in Houston at 1:30 p.m., the 23-year-old Cook will become just the second rookie quarterback in franchise history to start a playoff game. The Raiders have played 43 postseason games in their history and the only other time a rookie started came in 1991 when Todd Marinovich was under center.
Marinovich’s fateful start against the Chiefs came in under eerily similar circumstances to Cook’s expected start against the Texans. Long before Marinovich’s career and life spun out of control, he was a rookie first-round pick out of USC filled with promise. Like Cook, Marinovich threw his first NFL pass the week before the playoffs. Like Cook, Marinovich was impressive in a Raiders loss — very impressive, throwing three touchdowns in a 27-21 loss to the Chiefs in that Dec. 22 game in ’91.
Connecting the dots of the Raiders rookie quarterbacks, Cook also gave the Raiders reason for optimism in Sunday’s crushing loss in Denver by going 14 for 21 for 150 yards and a touchdown.
But this is where Raiders fans are hoping the similarities between Marinovich and Cook come to an end.
A week after getting his feet wet in ’91, a week later Marinovich was overwhelmed by the same Chiefs defense while throwing four costly interceptions in a 10-6 loss in Kansas City in the wild card round. Marinovich went 12 for 23 for 140 yards and also fumbled once. Not included in his woeful stat line was a locker room mirror that Marinovich broke with his helmet after the loss.
How will Cook respond to the pressure of being the first rookie in NFL history to make his first career start in the playoffs? And what about the task of playing on the road against the NFL’s top-ranked defense? Can Cook become the first Raiders rookie quarterback to ever win a playoff game? It’s probably safe to say the Raiders’ best chance of winning would be for their offensive line to turn in a dominating performance, and for their defense to make some plays against Houston’s Brock Osweiler.
On the other hand, a guy who knows a couple things about quarterback play seems to think an awful lot of Connor Cook!