ALAMEDA, Calif. — Plenty has changed around the Oakland Raiders between starts at quarterbacks by Matt McGloin.
When McGloin last got the chance to start a game late in 2013, the Raiders were wrapping up a four-win season with a roster severely lacking in talent.
When McGloin takes the field Sunday in Denver in place of the injured Derek Carr, he will have three Pro Bowl linemen protecting him, a pair of big-play receivers on the outside in Pro Bowler Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and a running game that has been one of the league’s best in recent weeks.
He’ll also have far more at stake than he had in any of those six starts he made three years ago. With a win over the Broncos (8-7), the Raiders (12-3) will be AFC West champions and get a first-round bye in the playoffs.
A loss coupled with a Kansas City win in San Diego will leave Oakland as a wild-card team traveling to play AFC South champion Houston on the opening weekend of the playoffs.
“It’s exciting,” McGloin said Wednesday. “This is the position you want to be in. This is why you spend so much time trying to master your craft and why you put so much time in the weight room, in the film room and on the practice field, is for games like this, moments like this.
“So, we’re definitely aware of where we’re at right now and again, what’s at stake come Sunday and we’re excited about it.”
Overcoming odds: McGloin has made a career of overcoming odds and doubters. He got no scholarship offers coming out of high school, but walked on at Penn State and left as the school’s career leader in touchdown passes.
After failing to get invited to the combine, McGloin sent a letter and video to NFL teams pleading for a chance. He went undrafted but signed with Oakland as a camp arm only to end up beating out fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson for a roster spot.
Now after spending nearly three full seasons as a backup, McGloin has been handed the reins to what had been one of the NFL’s top teams and a possible Super Bowl contender.
But few people outside the Raiders organization believe the team can pull that off now that Carr is out with a broken right leg.
“Regardless of whether people like you or they don’t like you or people critique you or they don’t critique you, really it’s out of my control,” McGloin said.
“Some writers may like me, some may not like me and it is what it is. I don’t really try to let that bother me.”
Big shoes to fill: McGloin has big shoes to fill. Carr had emerged as an MVP candidate this season after throwing for 28 touchdowns, 3,933 yards and leading seven fourth-quarter comebacks.
McGloin has just one win under his belt, coming when he threw three TD passes in his first career start at Houston in 2013. The Raiders then lost the next five games with McGloin before Terrelle Pryor started the season finale.
McGloin completed just 55.9 percent of his passes that season with eight touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 76.1 rating. He has thrown just 55 passes the past three seasons as Carr has started every game.
Coach Jack Del Rio said the only advice this week is to stay true to himself.
“Be who you are. Make your plays. Let us all do our jobs around you,” Del Rio said. “You don’t have to put the world on your shoulders. It’s not your responsibility. We ask everybody to do their job. Understand what your role is and get that done for us. It’s no different for him.”
With Carr sidelined, rookie Connor Cook will be elevated to backup QB. Cook has not been active all season.