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Whirlwind week ends with Aidan O’Connell as Raiders QB

Updated November 2, 2023 - 5:42 pm

There is no book Aidan O’Connell can turn to for guidance on proceeding as the Raiders’ new starting quarterback.

No YouTube video exists explaining how to handle being a rookie third-stringer one day and the next being given the most prestigious job in football.

He’s just going to have to wing some parts of his new gig, beginning with Sunday’s game against the Giants at Allegiant Stadium when he replaces veteran Jimmy Garoppolo.

“Just trying to take it day by day, really minute by minute,” O’Connell said. “And trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”

O’Connell’s ascent came Tuesday when the Raiders made sweeping changes throughout the organization. Coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi were fired and replaced by Antonio Pierce, Champ Kelly and Bo Hardegree.

O’Connell was immediately elevated to the starter over Garoppolo, who struggled all season to deliver competent play.

To say it’s been a whirlwind is an understatement.

“A lot going on around here,” O’Connell said. “Nothing I’ve been a part of before. It’s all pretty foreign to me.”

Not that he will be on his own.

The confidence in the locker room runs deep for the fourth-round pick from Purdue. That starts with star wide receiver Davante Adams, who has made his feelings known for the 24-year-old.

Primarily because of a work ethic that stretches beyond the obvious. Like when Adams sees O’Connell on the practice tape, carrying out all the play responsibilities, footwork and handoff or throwing motion when he’s on the sideline watching Garoppolo or Brian Hoyer take snaps from center.

“You see him just working on his craft,” Adams said. “Just always ready for his opportunity. And that means a lot because there’s just been so much up and down and shifting of quarterbacks, so having that type of mentality as a young guy … it’s a lot more mature than what I’ve seen from a first-year quarterback in my history.”

His teammates’ support has taken some of the pressure off the events of the past two days and what he’s about to face Sunday.

“It’s been awesome. Definitely overwhelming,” O’Connell said. “The guys have my back and super supportive both vocally and how they treat me. That gives me a lot of confidence in myself.”

O’Connell will be making his second start, but the circumstances are far different from his first one, when he completed 24 of 39 passes for 239 yards and an interception in a loss to the Chargers. He was an emergency starter for Garoppolo, who was out with a concussion. It was understood that Garoppolo would return as the starter when he was healthy.

This time, though, it appears as if the job is O’Connell’s to lose, at least for the rest of the season. Not that he’s looking too far ahead.

“You try to take it one play at a time, no matter what the situation is.” O’Connell said. “And because it’s football, it could be your last play at any play. So you try to take advantage of every opportunity.”

The experience against the Chargers should help as he prepares for the Giants.

“It was definitely a valuable experience for me,” O’Connell said. “I got to know what it’s like the day before the game, day of the game to be the guy that was going to play and then obviously have that experience in-game. But at the same time, it’s a completely new team and new scheme we’re playing against, so it’s a different challenge.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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