Continuity at the quarterback position has been one of the issues that has plagued the Raider organization since Rich Gannon’s career ended in 2004. Since that time, 18 different quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Raiders, many of whom are now only distant bad memories. This year, the quarterback position is in flux again as veteran Matt Schaub was acquired via trade to be the immediate starter while Derek Carr was taken in the 2nd round to be groomed as a potential franchise quarterback in the long term. Matt McGloin, who started six games last year after the coaching staff pulled the plug on the Terrelle Pryor experiment, remains on the team as the third string quarterback.
The organization has made clear on multiple occasions that they prefer not to start rookie Derek Carr right away, and would rather let him sit and learn behind the veteran Schaub. While Carr has been sharp in two preseason appearances (completed over 59% of his passes, more than Schaub or McGloin), he has not been as good as some of his rookie classmates and already missed the key third preseason game with a rib injury after suffering a concussion in the second game against Detroit. The organization has signaled that they are confident he can start in place of Schaub, especially in the coming 4th preseason game (he would have started anyway) while Schaub is sidelined with tendinitis in his throwing arm.
Tendinitis aside, Matt Schaub has been the worst statistical performer of the three quarterbacks on the roster throughout the preseason. Facing each team’s starting defense, Schaub has put up poor numbers in his three preseason starts. He has completed only 51% of his passes and averaged less than five yards per attempt, with no touchdown passes and one interception. In sixteen possessions in which he has been the quarterback, the Raiders have managed two touchdowns, one of which was on a breakaway run by Maurice Jones-Drew. To many observers, Schaub has failed the eyeball test. San Francisco Chronicle beat writer Vic Tafur suggested on Twitter that the limited play-calling in preseason may be a result of Schaub’s clearly diminished arm strength. On his final drive of the game against Green Bay, Schaub completed a few good throws after the Packer defensive starters had already left the game, including his best pass of the preseason, a perfect fade route to James Jones in the end zone that was overturned on review.
The Case for McGloin
Matt McGloin has faced the bottom of every team’s depth chart in all three of his appearances this preseason, but has dominated the weaker competition, being rated the best quarterback of the preseason by Pro Football Focus. He has completed 56% of his passes (slightly worse than Carr, better than Schaub) and leads all Raider QB’s in yards per attempt (7.3), total passing yardage (366) and touchdowns (3) and has not thrown a single interception. He also scored a rushing touchdown, the teams only points in the first preseason game against Minnesota. He has led four touchdown drives and threw a touchdown with six seconds left to win the game against Detroit. And while his stats and accomplishments are a bit devalued because of who he is playing against, he is also playing WITH the bottom of the Raider depth chart, and has managed to elevate the game of those around him, especially wideout Brice Butler. His statistics show improvement when compared to last preseason: after the third game of last year’s preseason, with about half the number of attempts, he had already thrown three interceptions, against the same 3rd string or future practice squad players that he’s faced this year.
McGloin does not have anywhere near the same career numbers as the veteran Schaub. Schaub, a former Pro Bowler, has put up over 24,000 yards passing and thrown 130 touchdown passes in his career. He has eclipsed the 4,000 yard mark three times and thrown for more than twenty TD’s three times. Since coming to Houston in 2006, he has never had a season in which he completed less than 60% of his passes. His resume was well worth Reggie McKenzie sending a sixth round pick to Houston for his services. But last year, Schaub struggled horribly. He averaged fewer yards per attempt (6.45) than he ever had in his career as a starter. He threw 14 INT’s – including the infamous streak of pick-sixes – to only 10 TD’s. His velocity was down. He was benched in favor of Case Keenum. He went from being a competent franchise quarterback to being a guy who was traded for a sixth round pick. McGloin, who started six games last year, compares favorably to 2013 Schaub. McGloin averaged nearly a yard more per attempt (7.33) than Schaub. McGloin threw 8 TD’s (Schaub threw two more on 147 more attempts) and 8 INT’s. Both QB’s had deplorable W-L records.
Obviously, the Raiders long-term plan is for rookie Derek Carr to eventually take the reins and be the franchise quarterback in Oakland once he is completely ready. The idea in bringing in the veteran Schaub was to give Carr a teacher and mentor on the team, someone who could guide him in the finer points of quarterbacking in the NFL, but also to have someone who can start right away and lead the offense to some semblance of success and respectability. So far, it does not look like Schaub is able to do that anymore. His arm strength is down, and he doesn’t have the same level of familiarity with coaches Greg Olson and John DeFelippo as does McGloin, who has already spent a full season with the organization and started regular-season games running this offense.
There clearly needs to be dramatic improvement at the quarterback position if this offense is going to be effective, and so far in preseason Matt Schaub has not demonstrated that he is an improvement over Matt McGloin. If the franchise is committed to taking their time with Derek Carr and not throwing him to the wolves as a rookie, then it may be time to start McGloin. McGloin can lead the offense in the short term with a chance to improve his own value in a trade or as a free agent down the line, while Schaub can remain on the roster in the #3 spot and – if he’s still willing – continue to mentor both Carr and McGloin. He has been a very good quarterback in this league for several years, but it’s beginning to seem like his time as a starter is at an end.