The Broncos are in search of a coach. The Raiders are looking for a quarterback.
Neither of these AFC West rivals came out of Sunday in as good of shape as they went in.
After a 24-6 victory, Denver coach Gary Kubiak told his players he was stepping away.
During that loss, the Raiders (12-4) saw their hopes for a division title and first-round bye slip away, and also lost their quarterback-of-the-moment, Matt McGloin , to a shoulder injury.
They are faced with the prospect of rookie Connor Cook making his first NFL start in a playoff game at Houston next weekend.
« Nothing is easy about this league, » coach Jack Del Rio said. « We wanted to win the division but we didn’t earn that. We earned the playoffs. »
He had little to offer about McGloin’s status. The fourth-year veteran, starting in place of the previously injured Derek Carr, left in the second quarter with an injury to his left shoulder and watched the rest of the game from the sideline.
In the other locker room, players voiced support for Kubiak, who has battled health problems and will leave the team only one short season after he led it to a Super Bowl title.
« I owe him a lot, obviously, » said Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, who earned the starting job this year.
The Broncos went 9-7 and missed the playoffs, and now, team vice president John Elway embarks on a coaching search he didn’t expect. Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could be candidates.
« I trust him 100 percent, » linebacker Von Miller said of Elway, with whom he had contentious contract negotiations last offseason. « We have a championship organization here. »
But there will be a new champion this year. The Raiders once looked like as much of a front-runner in the AFC as anyone outside of New England. But now, it’s Kansas City as division champion and Oakland as a road team with no sure bet on who its quarterback will be.
« We’re big boys, » Del Rio said. « We can take it like men and move on. It’s not what we wanted by any stretch. »
Other things we learned from Denver’s win over Oakland:
Cook was a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State. His first NFL action came under the most difficult of circumstances. He finished 14 for 21 for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception. If he starts next week, he’ll become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first NFL start in the playoffs. « It’s not going to change anything for me, » he said. « I’m still going to prep as if I’m playing. It doesn’t matter if I’m backup, starter, whatever. »
ON THE BENCH
Kubiak hinted all week that both Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch would see playing time in the finale. With Denver’s offense rolling — 24 points is more than it scored in the last three games combined — Lynch never made it off the bench. « That’s on me, » Kubiak said. « Paxton has a bright future. It’s going to be a hell of a battle between those two kids next year. »
GOOD NEWS, MAYBE
The Raiders went 3-3 against AFC West rivals, but won all six games against the rest of the conference. Their playoff opener is against the Texans, who they beat 27-20 in a game in Mexico City in November. « Our heads shouldn’t be down, » receiver Amari Cooper said. « We’re still going to the playoffs; we just didn’t earn a bye. » One more tidbit: Since the playoff field was expanded to 12 teams, a No. 5 seed has never represented the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Devontae Booker became the seventh Broncos rookie with a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game. He joins such names as Clinton Portis, who accomplished the feat in 2002, Terrell Davis (1995) and Rick Upchurch (1975). « That just shows what our offense can do, » Booker said. « We went out there and moved the ball up and down the field. We put points on the board. »
OTHER HEALTH WORRIES
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn left the game clutching his left knee but Del Rio said he thinks Penn should be fine for next week.