It's a time of great change for the Las Vegas Raiders. Owner Mark Davis fired head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler on Tuesday night, and now their quarterback has also lost his job.
The Raiders have elected to bench current starter Jimmy Garoppolo and instead will start rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell against the New York Giants. During his introductory news conference on Wednesday, interim head coach Antonio Pierce confirmed reports that O'Connell will be QB1 from now on.
"We just feel like he gives us the best chance," Pierce answered in response to a question about the decision to elevate the 25-year-old.
Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly said they met with the team on Tuesday morning and saw a positive reaction to the change.
"The guys are rallying behind him. They're excited to see him get his opportunity," Kelly said.
Garoppolo's season was not going well. It began with him signing a three-year, $67.5 million contract with the Raiders in March, and that could end up being his professional high point of 2023. Through six games (with two missed due to injury) the 31-year-old has passed for 1,205 yards with seven touchdowns and a league-leading nine interceptions.
At least one of Garoppolo's coworkers hasn't been happy with him. Wide receiver Davante Adams slammed his helmet onto the ground after Garoppolo missed him on a throw that likely would have ended up as a touchdown during the Raiders' punchless 26-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday night. Adams wouldn't speak to the media after the game in fear of what he might say.
O'Connell comes with none of that baggage. The 25-year-old was drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round in April after spending four years with Purdue and has made just one NFL start this season: Oct. 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers in a 24-17 loss.
There has reportedly been disagreement within the coaching staff about preferred starters in recent weeks. According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, McDaniels wanted to start 38-year-old veteran Brian Hoyer against the Chicago Bears when Garoppolo was out Week 7 with a back injury, even though some on his coaching staff were pushing for O'Connell. McDaniels reportedly thought O'Connell's one interception against the Chargers was too big of a risk, and Hoyer's experience would be a better fit since Chicago was starting rookie Tyson Bagent.
That decision backfired spectacularly for McDaniels. Hoyer got benched after throwing two interceptions. O'Connell came in to replace him and promptly engineered an eight-play, 60-yard drive to score a garbage-time touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Raiders lost 30-12 to the Bears.