The Oakland Raiders’ decision to move on from former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in favor of former quarterbacks coach Todd Downing was definitely one of the most high-profile coordinator changes in football this past offseason.
Oakland did this largely for two reasons: to expand the offense and to get the most out of star quarterback Derek Carr, who has a great working relationship with Downing. After a frustrating first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Downing saw his offense start to take flight last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Hopefully that was a sign of good things to come.
It remains to be seen just how different the Raiders offense will look under Downing when compared to what Musgrave ran. That being said, it will be interesting to see how good this offense can get with the Carr and Downing working together going forward.
Oakland will need to lean on its offense again in 2017. The Raiders still have a ton of work to do to get Ken Norton Jr.’s defense right. Though it really comes down to the working relationship of Carr and Downing, here are the five Raiders that will benefit the most from the switch at offensive coordinator.
All three quarterbacks on the Raiders roster have had at least one year of previous working experience with Downing. 2017 free agent EJ Manuel worked with Downing for a year in Orchard Park with the 2014 Buffalo Bills. Carr has had him as his quarterbacks coach in 2015 and 2016. Connor Cook also was in that Raiders quarterback room last year with Carr and Downing.
He’s poised to benefit a good bit from Downing’s promotion. Already in the 2017 NFL preseason, Cook has orchestrated two sound drives that resulted in touchdowns. Only he was able to lead the Raiders into the end zone against Arizona in preseason Week 1, capped off by a John Crockett goal-line run. Against the Rams, Cook played with rhythm and timing in the pocket, connecting with wide receiver Johnny Holton for a slick touchdown pass.
Ideally, Cook would progress from year one to year two in the league anyway. However, having his former quarterbacks coach in Downing calling the plays only helps him improve as a backup passer in this league. In a way, Downing’s promotion highlights the importance for Cook to listen to him. He knew what he was talking about to get that promotion.
Downing’s success within the Raiders organization has to be positive reinforcement for a young player like Cook. He’s the type of player that could find himself out of the league if he’s not getting the right coaching. Because he was his former quarterbacks coach last year, Downing will be better able to devise a game plan that accentuates Cook’s skills and minimizes his limitations as a passer if he’s asked to enter a regular season game.