The Las Vegas Raiders entered their bye week with their 2023 season on life support, after dropping their last two games against the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. That came on the heels of the team winning their first two games after firing Josh McDaniels and replacing him on an interim basis with Antonio Pierce.
It is pretty clear that Pierce has won the locker room and many feel there could be a real issue if the team decides to fire him and go with a seasoned head coach in 2024 and beyond. However, the NFL is a 'wins and losses' business, and if Pierce continues to lose, and is outcoached in the process, team owner Mark Davis will be forced to look elsewhere.
The biggest move Pierce made when he took over was naming Aidan O'Connell his starting quarterback over Jimmy Garoppolo. Going forward, that combination will be connected in whether or not they are apart of the long-term solution in Las Vegas with five games left in the 2023 NFL season.
Raiders Pierce and O'Connell connected at the hip going forward
By going with O'Connell over Garoppolo, Pierce basically signed on that he would be connected with O'Connell going forward, something that could make-or-break him in his quest to be the Raiders head coach. O'Connell has played well, and was even the NFL's top-rated quarterback in Week 12 based on QBR, but the wins have not come at the rate the franchise wants.
O'Connell is 25-years old, so he is an older rookie, but he is someone who could also round into a legitimate starter at the NFL level. There have been times when you watch him play and feel he can be the franchise quarterback for years to come, and other times when you think the Raiders should select a quarterback in a position-heavy 2024 NFL Draft.
The Raiders have a chance to shock the NFL down the stretch, and a big-time playoff run could secure both Pierce and O'Connell's spots on the team in 2024 and beyond. Rich Bisaccia led this team to a playoff berth as an interim head coach in 2021, but it did not win him the job, though Davis has regretted that decision since bringing in McDaniels and Dave Ziegler.
The hope for Raiders fans is that they have found their QB and HC for the long-term, but only time will tell what will become of this tandem.