Raiders to start rookie QB Aidan O’Connell vs. Giants: Sources

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By Dianna Russini, Vic Tafur, Tashan Reed and Larry Holder

The Las Vegas Raiders will start quarterback Aidan O’Connell in their Week 9 game against the New York Giants, team and league sources said. Here’s what you need to know:

  • O’Connell will make his second start this season. His first start came in Week 4, a 24-17 loss to the Chargers.
  • He also played in Week 7 against the Bears after the Raiders pulled Brian Hoyer.
  • O’Connell has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 313 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
  • The move comes after starter Jimmy Garoppolo had a terrible outing, posting a 46.9 passer rating in a 26-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Why make this move

One of the growing disconnects between owner Mark Davis and the since-fired general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels was the handling of the quarterbacks this season. Jimmy Garoppolo struggled and has thrown nine interceptions, in between missing games with a concussion and a back injury. The Raiders’ brass thought that Garoppolo still gave them their best chance to win, even as he looked uncomfortable in the pocket and had trouble completing long passes downfield.

One big misstep by McDaniels and Ziegler (that I wished I mentioned in my just posted column) was their decision to go with Hoyer, the 37-year-old former Patriots backup, over O’Connell in Week 7 against the Bears, when Garoppolo was out with a back injury. McDaniels had more confidence in the veteran to have a clean game, but Hoyer threw an interception and the offense bogged down as he locked in on his first read.

Not giving the rookie another game to develop and see what he can do in light of Hoyer’s bad performance was another strike against McDaniels and Ziegler, league sources said. And then Garoppolo missing an open Davante Adams twice downfield and the Raiders only scoring seven points on offense Monday night was enough to confirm Davis’ suspicions that he needed a reboot. — Vic Tafur, Raiders senior writer

Why O’Connell

The Raiders drafted O’Connell in April to be their developmental backup behind Garoppolo, but now he finds himself replacing the benched veteran quarterback just eight games into his rookie season. While that certainly isn’t what anyone expected, it makes a lot of sense. Garoppolo has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this season and was brought in by a coach and general manager whom the franchise no longer employs. There was just no incentive to stick with him moving forward.

With O’Connell, though, there’s at least the hope that comes with the unknown. After playing well in the preseason, he got his first chance to start in Week 4 with Garoppolo out due to a concussion. He made mistakes — he committed three turnovers — but he also showed flashes of promise and nearly led the Raiders to a comeback win over the Chargers. The 25-year-old may not be the long-term answer for the Raiders, but he could be. With this move, the Raiders are giving themselves the chance to find out. — Tashan Reed, Raiders staff writer

Garoppolo endures steep fall

Garoppolo endured one of the steepest one-week falls I’ve seen in a minute. The quarterback entered Week 8 ranked ninth in Expected Points Added per dropback rate, via TruMedia. Falling 10 spots in one week to No. 19 near the midpoint of the season shows just how awful his Monday night was against the Lions.

In his return from a back injury, Garoppolo yielded the worst EPA per dropback rate (-0.75) of his starting career in Week 8. It was also his third-worst passer rating (46.9) as a starter. It didn’t help that he faced pressure on 60.7 percent of his dropbacks. — Larry Holder, NFL senior writer

Required reading

(Photo: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)

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