Oakland Raiders fans may be getting to know Connor Cook, but Cook has a history of success on the football field. Cook had a storied college football career at Michigan State including a College Football Playoff appearance during his senior season.
Cook ended his college football career at the College Football Playoff and essentially started his NFL career in the NFL playoffs. While he was a known commodity in East Lansing, his viability as an NFL quarterback is still being determined.
The Raiders selected him with the 100th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Cook entered the league with a number of accomplishments including awards like the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and being named to the First-Team All Big Ten team.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Cook Has the Most Wins in Michigan State History
Cook was 34-5 as a starter in East Lansing. He completed 58 percent of his passes (673-of-1170) for 9,194 yards, 71 touchdowns and 22 interceptions during his career. Cook has the most touchdown passes and passing yards in Michigan State history. His production combined with his size (6’4″/217 pounds) meant there was no shortage of interest in Cook when the NFL Draft rolled around.
Despite his talent, rumors swirled around his leadership ability and popularity among his teammates at Michigan State. Questions started to arise after Cook was not named a captain during his senior season. It is an honor that often goes to the quarterback.
Some of the speculation started after an anonymous NFL scout was critical of Cook to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. “Selfish. He goes out too much. It’s a tell-tale sign when your teammates don’t like you, and I know they don’t. He’s good, but that position is more than physical attributes. It’s also leadership. Is he going to lead your guys? I don’t think so. He’ll be a starter but I don’t think he can lead you to the promised land,” the scout told the Sentinel.
At 23 years old, Cook has plenty of time to prove the critics wrong.
2. His Parents Were Both College Athletes
With the athleticism in his family, Cook was bound to be an athlete. His father, Chris, was a tight end at Indiana from 1982-84. While he benefited from his father’s history as a college football player, his dad may have contributed to his draft day slide.
There are a litany of offensive tweets from his father available on the internet and with the amount of research NFL teams do on potential NFL prospects, the offensive tweets could not have helped his case with potential teams.
His mother, Donna, played college basketball at Cincinnati. Unlike Chris Connor, she stays out of the spotlight. Cook’s sister, Jackie, played college basketball at Old Dominion completing the circle of athleticism in the Cook family.
3. The Dallas Cowboys Liked Connor Cook Over Dak Precott
Despite all the success Cook had at Michigan State, there were concerns about Cook’s viability at the next level. He opted to skip the Senior Bowl which prompted criticism as many draft analysts believed he could have helped improve his draft stock.
The Raiders drafted Cook at the beginning of the fourth round with the 100th overall selection. Oakland traded two later picks to move up in the draft to ensure they got Cook. The move was done in part to jump in front of the Cowboys who were in the market for a quarterback.
As it turns out, it was a wise move as MMQB reported after the draft the Cowboys were targeting Cook. Dallas had him ranked higher than Dak Prescott and attempted to trade with the Browns to move up to draft him. Ultimately, the Raiders deal was better and wound up with Cook on their roster.
4. Cook Made His First NFL Start in the 2017 Playoffs
Cook was drafted by the Raiders to add depth to the quarterback position. Oakland likely did not plan on needing Cook during the 2016 season much less in the playoffs. Derek Carr suffered a fractured fibula late in the regular season. At the time, Oakland was on pace to secure the number two seed and a first round bye.
The next week the Raiders backup Matt McGloin left the game with a shoulder injury. Cook finished the game for the Raiders and was named the starter for Oakland’s 2017 Wild Card matchup against the Texans. It marked Cook’s first full NFL game. Less than a month before his first start, Cook was the third-string quarterback for the Raiders. He played in just one NFL game prior to the playoff matchup.
Cook was brought in to learn under Carr. The injuries to both Carr and McGloin forced Cook into action on the biggest stage during his rookie season.
5. He Made $450,000 During the 2016-17 Season
While $450,000 is a lot of money to most people, for a quarterback starting in the NFL playoffs it is a lot less than other quarterbacks. According to Spotrac, Cook signed a 4-year deal worth $2,959,890. In addition to his rookie salary, Cook received a $619,890 signing bonus. Had Cook not fallen in the draft, his salary would have been higher.
Cook can still end up with a lucrative contract. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round and made $390,000 during his rookie season in 2012. In 2015, Wilson signed a 4-year contract worth $87,600,000.
Wilson’s salary was over $12 million in 2016 and his play on the field earned him a massive pay raise. Given the Raiders already have their franchise quarterback in Carr, it will be much harder for Cook to find the playing field and earn a huge second contract like Wilson. This is based less on his draft position and more on the opportunities in Oakland.