Las Vegas Raiders fans got a surprise on Sunday morning. With starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out with a concussion, most expected his backup, veteran Brian Hoyer, to start against the Los Angeles Chargers. But instead, Ian Rapoport reported that rookie Aidan O’Connell, the third-string QB, would start instead.
A surprise: The #Raiders are expected to start rookie QB Aidan O’Connell against the #Chargers, sources say. With Jimmy Garoppolo out with a concussion, the assumption is that veteran backup Brian Hoyer would start. Instead, it’s the promising rookie. pic.twitter.com/Snh8JNWSYl
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 1, 2023
O’Connell, 25, was drafted out of Purdue by the Raiders in the fourth round. He had an outstanding preseason, completing 43 of 62 passes for 482 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. But with the Raiders handing Garoppolo a three-year, $72.75 million free agent contract this offseason, there was never any chance he could take the starting spot.
It’s rare for an inexperienced third-stringer to get the start over an established backup quarterback like Hoyer, who has 40 starts over 15 years in the NFL. But with the Raiders’ carefully laid plans for the season already askew due to Garoppolo’s concussion, they have a chance to see whether O’Connell’s great preseason can translate into regular season success.
It’s not known how long Garoppolo, who sustained the concussion during the Raiders’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, will be out. Whether O’Connell starts beyond Week 4 depends on how he does against the Chargers, and whether Garoppolo needs more time to recover.