Why Aidan O'Connell winning starting job would be great sign for Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders are going to have a close QB competition but they should be rooting for Aidan O'Connell to earn the job outright.
Aidan O'Connell & Gardner Minshew of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Aidan O'Connell & Gardner Minshew of the Las Vegas Raiders. / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

With organized team activities underway for the Las Vegas Raiders, many eyes will be on the quarterback competition between Aidan O'Connell and Gardner Minshew. The former is the young second-year quarterback who was thrown into the fire last season while the latter is a veteran journeyman who nearly led the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs last season.

On the surface, Minshew should be the favorite to win the job. The Raiders gave him a two-year, $25 million contract in free agency, which would be a little rich for a backup. He's also got five years of expeirence and 37 starts under his belt. However, the best-case scenario for the Raiders is if O'Connell takes a leap and definitively earns the starting job.

Why AOC winning starting QB job would be great news

Minshew is a fun player and has proven to be an average starter when he gets the chance, but the problem with him is that we know what we have in him. His ceiling is likely 20 to 25 touchdown passes and 3,000 to 3,500 passing yards.

O'Connell had some rough moments as a rookie but he also never expected to be thrown into the fire so quickly. Plus, the Raiders cycled through two offensive playcallers in a system that is already notoriously complex. Despite that, he improved his game as the season went on and went 3-1 in his final four starts while throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Though O'Connell certainly isn't young at 25, he's far younger than Minshew when it comes to NFL experience. It's on the board that the second-year quarterback could take a leap in 2024. What the leap could look like remains to be seen but there's untapped potential here.

O'Connell was a rookie last season and his numbers were comparable to Minshew's. Minshew was 7-6 as a starter and threw 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also had one of the best young offensive minds in the NFL calling plays for him in Shane Steichen. O'Connell went 5-5 as a starter and threw 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions while first-time playcaller Bo Hardegree called most of his plays.

That isn't to say that O'Connell is definitively better or even on the same level as Minshew yet but him winning the starting job would be a strong sign that he took a leap. O'Connell playing significantly better than last season is an upgrade over what Minshew did last season.

Who has the edge?

The Raiders' defense is greatly improved so the quarterbacks could have a hard time looking great in practice. Early on, there's no clear sign of who has the edge. That could favor O'Connell. Minshew has so much more experience that he should get off to an early lead. If he can't, it's easy to see O'Connell getting the No. 1 quarterback job and not letting go.

That said, this situation could remain fluid all season. Head coach Antonio Pierce will likely be less inclined to ride or die with O'Connell this season considering he now has a hand-picked quarterback in Minshew. The Raiders quarterback situation is one of the most fascinating around the league and could be a topic throughout the season if one of them doesn't step up.

Las Vegas should be rooting for O'Connell to win the job. He still has untapped potential and may even prove to be a long-term starter. The Raiders know that Minshew is a stopgap option but O'Connell could still be the next Brock Purdy and a player to build around.