The Las Vegas Raiders decided to make a dramatic Halloween announcement with the revelation that head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler have been fired. Linebacker coach Antonio Pierce has been tasked with taking over as the interim head coach and it appears he’s leaning toward making a major change on offense.
The Raiders are “leaning toward” starting rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell in Week 9 against the New York Giants, according to an October 31 X post from Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Jimmy Garoppolo was brought in this offseason due to his familiarity with McDaniels’ system and now that the coach is gone, there’s no reason to continue with the experiment. Garoppolo leads the NFL with nine interceptions and is coming off a game against the Detroit Lions where he completed 10-of-21 passes for 126 yards.
Garoppolo has also missed two games due to injury this season. He hasn’t been reliable and when he’s been on the field, he’s played very poorly. At 3-5, the Raiders aren’t out of the playoff mix yet but whatever they were doing wasn’t working and it’s clear that Pierce is ready to shake things up.
Why Start Aidan O’Connell Now?
Aidan O’Connell has already made one start this season in relief of Jimmy Garoppolo for the Week 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie fourth-round pick threw an interception and lost three fumbles in that game. Starting him over Garoppolo isn’t a sure-fire upgrade.
However, the Raiders need some kind of spark on offense. It’s the only offense in the NFL that has yet to score more than 20 points in a game this season. The 15.8 points per game the group is averaging is currently the third-worst in the NFL. Even when Garoppolo was healthy, the offense couldn’t score points.
It remains to be seen if O’Connell will make things any better but he’s still an unknown. He’s got a better arm than Garoppolo so he at least poses a threat to go deep. If he can hit receivers deep, that could change things in a big way for the Raiders offense. It’s unlikely that O’Connell is the quarterback of the future in Las Vegas but if he does end up getting the starting nod, he’s got a nine-game audition to show that he deserves a chance to start next season.
What Happens With Jimmy Garoppolo?
Owner Mark Davis decided to move on from Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler following the October 31 trade deadline. That means the team can’t start selling off assets. With how poorly Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing, they may not been able to find a trade partner for him but something may have been able to materialize if the Raiders were aggressive.
Unless they can find a trade, the team is effectively stuck with Garoppolo through next season. If they released him after the 2023 season, they would be hit with a $28.3 million dead cap charge, per Spotrac. Chances are that he’ll simply be a very expensive backup next season. Garoppolo is a very good backup but it’s clear that his days as a starter are likely numbered. The next Raiders general manager is going to have a lot to figure out.