Updated October 30, 2023 - 11:05 pm
DETROIT — His smile is still sterling, his shoulders still broad, his demeanor — even in humbling defeat — befitting of a franchise quarterback. But Jimmy Garoppolo’s play for the Raiders is befitting of a backup.
His best days behind center were spent in San Francisco. And now, it begs the question: Is it time for the Raiders to bench the veteran?
Signed as part of their short-term solution under coach Josh McDaniels, the oft-injured 31-year-old is instead part of the problem — resembling a brittle washed-up journeyman than the difference maker he’s been paid to be against the Detroit Lions on “Monday Night Football.”
He completed 10 of 21 passes for 126 yards in a 26-14 loss — and an egregious first-quarter interception that hung in the air like a feather in the wind.
“You’ve just got to be smart,” he said. “Take the chances when they’re there. When they’re not, just be smart with it and find the outlet. Things like that. There’s nothing crazy about it. It’s very black and white.
“Just got to be smart with the football.”
Can’t find his rhythm
If Garoppolo was merely average under center instead of abominable, the Raiders might have beaten the upstart Lions. Their defense secured three takeaways, including cornerback Marcus Peters’ 75-yard interception-return touchdown in the third quarter.
Their offense totaled 157 yards and hasn’t exceeded 19 points since Week 17 of the 2022 season.
For his part, Garoppolo was inaccurate and unpoised, his feet happier in the pocket than the 66,744 spectators who attended Detroit’s first home “Monday Night Football” victory since 2014. He’d overthrow one target and underthrow the next, devoid under McDaniels of the educated, rhythmic play-calling he handled in San Francisco under coach Kyle Shanahan — and with it the command he used to have.
Garoppolo leads the NFL — despite missing two games to injury — with nine interceptions against seven touchdown passes.
“There’s a lot of things that go into that. Protections. Routes. Reads. Throws. Catches. All that stuff,” said McDaniels, from whom “play-calling” was a conveniently conspicuous omission.
“At the end of the day, we have to take care of the ball — and we don’t,” McDaniels added. “The quarterback room knows we have to take care of the ball better than what we have.”
Time for a change?
McDaniels said he didn’t consider sitting Garoppolo against the Lions, but it’s worth considering while the losses mountain and the season continues. The offense under his stewardship isn’t going anywhere, and the injuries and wear and tear continue to mount.
He was sacked six times Monday — peeling himself off the Ford Field turf to be battered again by Detroit’s defensive front.
Rookie Aidan O’Connell might not be any better, but it’s unlikely he’ll play any worse than Garoppolo played against the Lions. Additional playing time for the 25-year-old from Purdue allows for more evaluation from McDaniels and his coaching staff.
“We have to be able to produce more points in order to win games in this league. Right now we’re not doing that,” McDaniels said. “We’ll take a look at everything we’re doing. Everybody that’s doing it and then we’ll try and figure out if there’s a better way.
“There’s still nine games. We have a lot of football left.”
Plenty of time for a change at quarterback.