It was an offseason of change for the Las Vegas Raiders, as Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler decided to end Derek Carr's run as the team's starting quarterback. That move became apparent during the 2022 NFL season, as Carr was benched with two games remaining, and the Raiders still technically alive in the AFC Playoff race.
Carr was released from the team on Valentine's Day, and in his place, McDaniels and Ziegler brought in two familiar faces in Brian Hoyer and Jimmy Garoppolo. After drafting Aidan O'Connell in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, it appeared that the plan was for Garoppolo to start, with Hoyer behind him, and O'Connell learning in Year 1.
That plan went off the rails early on, as Garoppolo struggled with bad play and injuries, and Hoyer looked lost in his only start of the season. Once McDaniels and Ziegler were shown the door in October, interim head coach Antonio Pierce made the move to O'Connell for good, and the rookie played some solid football down the stretch.
Looking ahead, it is anybody's guess as to what the Raiders plan to do at the position moving forward, but there was a lot of good that came out of O'Connell's rookie season.
Raiders recap: Quarterback play was a roller coaster in 2023
It was pretty clear early on that the move for Garoppolo was a bad one, even with his history with McDaniels in New England. Garoppolo made some uncharacteristic throws into traffic, and as the injuries started to mount, it was only a matter of time before the rookie would get his shot in 2023.
O'Connell started a Week 3 game against Los Angeles, and while he looked like a rookie most of the time, committing multiple turnovers, there was some good to come out of it. He showed poise in the pocket, as well as some good awareness downfield, which made the move to Hoyer against Chicago a headscratcher once Garoppolo was lost to another injury.
For the season, O'Connell finished out strong, tossing eight touchdowns to zero interceptions in the final four games, beating all three AFC West teams down the stretch. There was some bad mixed in there, like not completing a pass in the second half against the Chiefs, but for the most part, he did his job to at least be in the conversation of fighting for the starting job in 2024.
The first order of business for the Raiders will be nailing down an offensive coordinator, as that will give a clearer picture in terms of what they plan to do at the position group. Whatever the case is, the Raiders need someone to come in and be the clear QB1 next offseason in hopes that the offense can catch up to the defense.