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Graney: Jimmy Garoppolo serves as mentor to Aidan O’Connell

It wasn’t the plan, not how things were supposed to go, opposite of what he assumed would occur. This isn’t how quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo saw his time being spent with the Raiders.

But a coaching change — Josh McDaniels out, Antonio Pierce in — sent Garoppolo to the bench in favor of rookie Aidan O’Connell.

How far up the proverbial food chain such a decision went doesn’t matter. O’Connell was the choice and the best one for various reasons. Most had nothing to do with Garoppolo.

But it’s how the quarterback has acted to the switch that says everything about the veteran. It was shortly after the move was made that Pierce spoke about the professionalism for which Garoppolo reacted to the news.

He wasn’t happy with it. No competitor would be.

But he also chose to continue acting as a captain and all that encompasses such a title. Things haven’t changed in the past four games.

‘A great teammate’

“Just like you would expect with a professional (like Garoppolo),” Pierce said. “A great teammate. He’s back there taking every rep mentally. (Scout) team gives us one of the best looks that we can get from obviously a starting quarterback at this level who can do it at a high level.

“Even more importantly, I think how he’s handled himself in the meeting rooms, being that voice of somebody that’s been there, done that. There’s things that coaches give, and there’s things that your teammates and professional athletes can give another professional athlete, and those tips go a long way.”

One way of thinking, and it could make sense to some, is that Garoppolo — who signed a three-year, $72.5 million contract with $33.75 million guaranteed for his 2023 salary and 2024 roster bonus — might not go out of his way to help given his level of compensation.

This is, after all, the NFL — where egos are bigger than the stadiums in which players perform. Not everyone would embrace the idea of helping others once benched.

But he did. He has. It’s nothing new for him.

“It kind of just comes naturally,” Garoppolo said. “It’s kind of the same situation as it was with (Trey Lance) in San Francisco. Being a rookie and playing in this league is so tough as it is. Every little thing you can help him out with — tidbits, studying, game plan stuff. All the little things you just don’t know as a rookie. I’m trying to help Aidan out as much as I can. Nothing crazy.

“I think he has the right mindset. He’s a very calm dude with a cool demeanor. That carries a quarterback a long ways in this league.”

O’Connell can certainly benefit from such guidance.

The Raiders have struggled offensively all season, and the quarterback play has been anything but stellar. And yet this is what the Raiders need more than anything else, an extended look at a fourth-round draft pick in O’Connell who might or might not be their future at the position.

He hasn’t proven to be an obvious answer for the team. He needs all the experience and teaching he can receive.

A true pro

“(Garoppolo) is one of the chillest guys I’ve ever met, really just a super easy guy to talk to,” O’Connell said. “It’s been fun to see our relationship grow. And like you said, he’s been cheering me on, encouraging me, supporting me. And so he and (backup Brian Hoyer) both have been huge in my development, and it really makes coming to work fun. They’ve taught me a lot, but also they’ve been super supportive.”

Which is what true pros do.

It wasn’t the plan, not how things were supposed to go, opposite of what Jimmy Garoppolo assumed would occur. But when counted on most, he has led. Been himself.

Starter or otherwise.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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