Matt McGloin has a history of overcoming expectations. After playing at small high school in Pennsylvania, he earned a walk-on offer from Penn State. Then, he passed Rob Bolden, a former 4-star recruit, as the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions for two seasons, earning the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the best college football player who started as a walk-on.
Entering Raiders training camp as the fourth quarterback, McGloin passed traded-for Matt Flynn and 4th round-drafted Tyler Wilson for the second on the depth chart for the Oakland Raiders. And this past weekend, getting the start for an injured Terrelle Pryor, McGloin took advantage of his NFL opportunity, putting up one of the best rookie quarterback performances of the season. Now, McGloin has his sights set on a long NFL career.
On draft day, Matt McGloin was an afterthought, ranked far from draftable on every major scouting network, including Optimum Scouting’s. A two year starter at Penn State, McGloin lacked NFL level arm strength or ideal foot quickness to be touted as having an expected NFL future. Entering training camp as a “camp arm” according to head coach Dennis Allen, but “he just kept working his way up”.
Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders starter for most of the season, has certainly wowed with his athleticism, but has been graded as the 2nd worst passing quarterback in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com.
But a three touchdown performance against the Texans (and fellow undrafted rookie starter Case Keenum) has once against thrust McGloin from backup quarterback to intriguing starter option in future weeks for Oakland, especially if Pryor isn't 100%.
Despite being named the official starter late in the week, leading to less than ideal time to prepare with the first team, McGloin e was 18 for 32 with two sacks, a solid 105.9 quarterback rating. Upon further look, however, both sacks were due to poor pass protection and long developing routes, four incompletions were drops, and two vertical throws to receiver Andre Holmes were missed by a mere inches. After just 20 snaps in his NFL career before this game, McGloin made just eight poor throws/decisions in 69 snaps on route to the Raiders victory over the Texans.
McGloin still lacked ideal arm strength or plus-foot speed that his college scouting report indicated in his win over the Texans, but he was able to have success thanks to three key skills that appear to have been under rated by college evaluators: his highly effective pre-snap reads, his touch downfield, and his calmness and patience under pressure.
Effective pre-snap on multiple plays throughout the game (key factor in him not throwing an interception), McGloin’s 3rd touchdown pass of the game to Mychal Rivera optimized the veteran-esque anticipation he displayed throughout the game. With the Texans playing a base nickel defense with two-high safeties, the Raiders ran four vertical routes. McGloin wisely looks to his outside receiver, forcing the short-side safety outside, and opening up the seam for Rivera who’s being guarded by a linebacker. Despite being under a bit of pressure in his face, he delivers a perfectly touched throw over the defender and into Rivera’s hands for the decisive touchdown.
Targeting receivers past twenty yards X times in the game, McGloin displayed velocity control and placement vertically along the sidelines to test the Texans cornerbacks. Not only was he adjusting the strength of his throws, but he consistently placed the ball at his receiver’s highest point, allowing for only his receiver to make an effective play on the ball. In the play below, McGloin gets to his five step drop after play action, sets his feet, and places the ball between the cornerback and safety for Andre Holmes to rise up and make a big catch down the field.
The most impressive and unexpected aspect to McGloin’s successful day was his calmness, composure, and patience under pressure. The Raiders offensive line has in the bottom ten of the NFL in pass protection for much of the season (per ProFootballFocus.com), but McGloin was able to evade pressure and step up in the pocket throughout the game. In the play below, he steps up through the wide pressure, is patient in letting his receiver (Marcel Reese) get to the top of the route, and places the ball just past the outstretched arms of the defensive back and in position for Reese to gain another ten yards after the catch.
It’s important to keep perspective on what McGloin’s big game means for his future. He did face a struggling defense, averaged only 6 yards per attempt, and has made just one start in his NFL career.
But after one of the best rookie quarterback performances of the season, McGloin has already done more than any could have predicted when he arrived as a walk-on at Penn State five years ago.
He’s thrived under low expectations wherever he’s been in his football career. And after an outstanding first start for an undrafted rookie, McGloin’s forced the Raiders to consider him as more than just a short-term fix as Terrelle Pryor’s backup. He’s earned the chance to start another game for the Oakland Raiders this season.