Raiders Urged to Make ‘Right Decision’ on 2024 Quarterback

It was a little less than a year ago that Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell began making a name for himself, showing up well in NFL preseason workouts and training camp before flashing real potential in preseason games. O’Connell was a well-traveled fourth-round pick from Purdue, and was clearly in the running to be the backup to recently signed starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

We know what happened from there. Garoppolo’s top patron, coach Josh McDaniels, was fired and Garoppolo was demoted in the aftermath. With no other real options on the roster, the Raiders turned to O’Connell, and new coach Antonio Pierce made him the starter the rest of the way.

The presumption was that the Raiders would add a veteran and a young draftee in this year’s draft to compete with O’Connell for the starting role. While the Raiders got the veteran—Gardner Minshew—they did not use a draft pick on a future QB option. So it is O’Connell, who will already be 26 in September, who represents the Raiders’ potential future at the position.

And the analysis site Pro Football Focus has a suggestion for the Raiders: Lean into that and make O’Connell the 2024 starter.

Aidan O’Connell Was a Surprise Starter in 2023

In an article at PFF titled, “Eight key NFL training camp battles,” analyst Gordon McGuinness writes that the battel between O’Connell and Minshew figures to be compelling, but that the best thing for the future of the franchise would be keeping O’Connell as the starter.

“O’Connell was the surprise starting quarterback from the 2023 draft class, getting the nod behind center 10 times across the season. He had some nice moments, too, earning a PFF passing grade above 70.0 in four of those starts,” McGuinness wrote.

“Minshew is the veteran, having earned a PFF passing grade above 60.0 in all three seasons where he has played 350 or more dropbacks. He is a safe bet to give the Raiders solid quarterback play. However, the right decision for the long-term is for Las Vegas to find out what it has in O’Connell. It will give the team greater clarity about what to do at the position come the end of the season.”

Indeed, the notion of bringing in a young quarterback via the draft was not entirely lost in 2024—the Raiders figure to simply push the decision on the future of the position back to next season. Thus, a year with O’Connell at the helm could determine whether the Raiders need to spend a first-rounder on a QB in April 2025.

Raiders Could Make a Playoff Push With Gardner Minshew

Of course, Minshew is the more experienced hand, and while his limitations are known, he is also a good enough quarterback to push the Raiders to the postseason. He rallied the Colts to a 9-8 record last year after Anthony Richardson went out for the season, and the Raiders have more talent around him in Las Vegas than Indianapolis did.

That’s the crux of the Raiders’ dilemma this year. Minshew might give them the best chance to be a playoff team in the short term, but developing O’Connell might be in the best interest of the franchise in the big picture.

There’s still a full training camp to go, of course, and it could be that either Minshew or O’Connell comes out with an impressive enough showing to win the job without argument. But if it is close, as PFF sees it, it should be O’Connell’s job to lose.

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