Four rookie quarterbacks had notable performances on Sunday, and it wasn't always for the better. But none of those first-year players won bigger than Matt McGloin of the Oakland Raiders, who became the first undrafted rookie since at least 1967 (the start of the common draft era) to throw at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions in a game. And this was his first NFL start.
McGloin was the difference in the Raiders' 28-23 win over the Houston Texans, a game that ostensible starter Terrelle Pryor didn't even travel to because he was dealing with a knee injury. There have been rumblings for a while that certain people in the Raiders organization prefer McGloin to Pryor, and those people got a bit of air under their case when the Penn State alum completed 18-of-32 passes for 197 yards and touchdowns to three receivers.
“You know what? Some of these guys just have it," Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said after the game. "You know what I mean? Some of them just, there’s something deep down inside of them, that they don’t pay any attention to the fact that people say they can’t do it. He’s really done that ever since we brought him in. Like I said the other day, we brought him [in] on a workout and really not expecting a whole lot. There was not one question in our mind by the end of the workout, really by about the third throw that was the guy we wanted to sign. He’s continued to do that since he’s been here. It’s not shocking that he was able to come in here and play as well as he did."
But if Allen is aware of a long-term decision at his most important position, he certainly wasn't letting on after the game.
“Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to enjoy this win,” he said. “We’re going to go back and we’ll evaluate. But [McGloin] definitely did a very good job today.”
Allen also said that Pryor was sick over the weekend, and he didn't want whatever Pryor had to move around the team plane and get other people under the weather.
McGloin is already practiced at handling quarterback controversy questions.
“We have a very healthy relationship, Terrelle and I,” McGloin said. “You know, this is his team. Film work, what to expect, how to handle situations, he was really there throughout the whole way. I’m happy to be playing quarterback with him.”
Pryor does bring more types of plays to the game, but if the deck is stacked against him, what happened on Sunday could close the door in the short term.
Meanwhile, at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, Bills quarterback EJ Manuel definitely had the advantage over New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith in the Bills' 37-14 win. The Jets continued their path of inconsistency, alternating wins and losses in every week since the season began. And Smith was the primary problem, completing just 8-of-23 passes for 105 yards, no touchdowns and three picks. Eventually, he was replaced by backup Matt Simms for his own good. Smith had the wind knocked out of him by Bills defensive tackle Marcel Dareus early in the game, and it all went downhill from there. Simms completed 4-of-6 passes and threw the Jets' only touchdown pass.
"Just bad -- the way I can sum up this game for myself is awful," Smith said. "I know that I can play better. I know that this isn’t who I am or what I want to be. The way to sum up that half is just momentum. It got us, and in those situations I’ve got to be mindful of taking care of the ball as I always say. I just didn’t get the job done today. That’s pretty much as simple as I can put it."
Smith was also sacked four times, which Rex Ryan pointed to as a root cause.
“I don’t think it’s fair to just place it on him," Ryan said of Smith. "With our protections, you could have had Joe Namath back there, and I don’t think it would have mattered today. Obviously when you turn the ball over four times, that’s a poor performance by our offense, and a poor performance by our defense.”
Like Allen, Ryan wasn't biting when asked about any QB controversy he may be mulling over.
“We’ll look at everything as we go. But again, I don’t think it’s fair to place it on one man. We have to have a hard look at what we’re doing, but I would say Geno is our starting quarterback against Baltimore next week.”
Manuel was able to take advantage of a Jets defense that has been porous against the pass all season, and the recent addition of safety Ed Reed -- who started at free safety -- didn't help. It was Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd who was the game's best deep pass enforcer, and Manuel completed 20-of-28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to nine receivers, and threw the ball in high winds as if they didn't exist.
Head coach Doug Marrone remembered how the front office specifically scouted Manuel for his ability to throw in such conditions, Florida State alum or not.
"I know this sounds crazy and I’ve said it before, but one of the things we’re looking at is the hand size," Marrone said. "When you look at the quarterbacks that have thrown well in bad weather, it’s mostly guys that can throw the ball, have a good arm, doesn’t have to be great, but a good arm and has big hands. Obviously EJ had the second or first biggest hands and then ... we worked him out in probably the conditions we just had today. Not the wind, but it was rainy, a little windy. We knew he could throw the ball and that was one of the factors that went in to picking EJ."
As with most rookie quarterbacks, Manuel has had his ups and downs. He was just happy to be on the right side of the scoreboard this time, especially with top receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods out with injuries.
"We just trusted our receivers. T.J. [Graham] and Marquise [Goodwin] both did a huge job, a great job stepping up for us this week with Woody and Stevie being injured,. So both guys, we’re very thankful that they came out and they were focused they were ready to go. They knew that the ball was coming to them and made great plays for us."
And for Tampa Bay rookie Mike Glennon, the last week has been quite the revelation. Last Sunday, the Buccaneers were 0-8, and the calls for the head of coach Greg Schiano were deafening. But the Bucs beat the hyper-dysfunctional Miami Dolphins on Monday night, and came back six days later to beat a sputtering Atlanta Falcons team 41-26.
Glennon, the third-round pick out of North Carolina State, grabbed Schiano's attention in the preseason, and he was thrown into the proverbial fire when the Bucs tired of Josh Freeman. After a couple of rocky starts, he's turned it around, throwing eight touchdown passes and just one interception in his last five games. Glennon was at his most efficient against the Falcons, completing 20-of-23 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. His efforts were buttressed by the performance of running back Chris Rainey, a waiver pickup who rushed 30 times for 163 yards and two scores of his own.
That said, it would be a mistake to focus on the run game and a resurgent defense and assume that Glennon is just a "game manager" in the pejorative sense. Tampa Bay had just one play of 40 or more yards in their first nine games, but they had three against the Falcons, including completions to Vincent Jackson of 47 and 53 yards.
“I felt comfortable out there all day," Glennon said. "I think we had a great gameplan, guys were open. I think I got hit only three times and those were on the sacks, but that’s not even on the offensive line, that’s on me trying to be overly cautious and not forcing any ball and with that kind of lead we had I just don’t want to take any chances. I had all day to throw back there, guys did a great job of making plays on the outside making catches. The passing game was set up by the run game, so it’s a full offensive unit.”
Something that was unthinkable for the Buccaneers a month ago ... but that's how quickly things can turn in the NFL. Especially for rookie quarterbacks. [si-nfl-player id="09b80c9a03434d1594dcb0fb855b1f78"]