Raiders vs. Texans: Battle of the Bad Quarterbacks
The “face of the franchise” in the N.F.L. is nearly always the team’s quarterback. In an odd twist, as the playoffs begin this weekend, a few of the teams will find out what happens when that face belongs to someone doing on-the-job training.
To one extreme of experience is Sunday’s matchup between the Giants and the Green Bay Packers. It is a duel between Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers, seasoned quarterbacks who have combined to play 368 games, attempt 12,305 passes and win three Super Bowls.
Contrast that with Saturday’s game between the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders. Brock Osweiler, just a few weeks after being benched, will start for the Texans because the team’s preferred starter, Tom Savage, is out with a concussion. Osweiler’s 21 career starts make him a wily veteran compared with the Raiders’ starter, Connor Cook, who, thanks to injuries to Derek Carr and Matt McGloin, will be the first quarterback to have his first N.F.L. start come in the playoffs.
Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Titans safety Daimion Stafford, left, last Sunday. CreditJames Kenney/Associated Press
The Raiders’ head coach, Jack Del Rio, was less than enthusiastic about going with a rookie, who has attempted only 21 passes as a professional, against the top-ranked defense in the N.F.L. in terms of yards allowed.
“It’s obviously not ideal,” Del Rio told reporters. “That’s why it’s never happened where a rookie gets his start in a playoff game.”
Cook displaces Todd Marinovich, Doug Flutie, Gifford Nielsen and Ron Jaworski to become the least experienced starting quarterback in a playoff game. Each of those quarterbacks had one career start before his first playoff start.
If Cook’s rise to starting was unexpected and meteoric, Osweiler’s promotion continued his roller coaster ride. It started last season when he replaced an injured and ineffective Peyton Manning and helped the Denver Broncos get to the playoffs, only to be benched in favor of Manning once the team got there.