Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce spoke with reporters Friday about how veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo handled being benched in favor of rookie Aidan OConnell for at least this Sundays home game against the 2-6 New York Giants.
“Youre sensitive to it, but you’re direct,” Pierce said about his conversation with Garoppolo, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “You just nip it in the bud, which we did. We talked about it like grown men. But at the end of the day, Jimmy is on our team. Jimmy’s still a captain. Jimmy’s still a leader. I’m sure at some point, Jimmy’s going to have the ball in his hand again. Things happen. It’s the National Football League. You’re never going to say, It’s 100 percent this is how we’re going to do it. Things can happen.”
With Las Vegas sitting at 3-5 on the season, Raiders owner Mark Davis fired both head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler hours after Tuesdays NFL trade deadline expired. Williams noted its unclear if Davis or Pierce benched Garoppolo, but Rachel Gossen of the Raiders website mentioned that Pierce said on Wednesday that OConnell “gives us the best chance” to win.
According to ESPN stats, Garoppolo has thrown a league-worst nine interceptions this season and is ranked 30th among qualified players with a 35.4 adjusted QBR. Hes 29th with a 78.1 passer rating, and he tossed seven touchdown passes across six contests.
To compare, OConnell completed 34 of 52 passes for 313 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions across his first two games as a pro. He also recorded a rushing score over those outings.
Garoppolo will serve as OConnells primary backup against the Giants.
“I’m very appreciative to Jimmy,” Pierce continued. “Since Jimmy has been here, he’s done nothing but become a pro and really taught our team to be a pro and also how to win, and when I say win, I’m not talking about on the grass always. I’m talking about in the meeting rooms, how to carry yourself, how to talk, how to handle adverse situations, and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Garoppolo inked a three-year contract that reportedly could be worth up to $72.5M with $33.75M guaranteed at signing to join the Raiders this past offseason. Its unknown what the franchises new leadership will think of the 32-year-old come March 2024. Unless Davis is essentially forcing Pierce to play OConnell until further notice, the interim coach could decide as soon as this coming Monday that he needs Garoppolo back atop the depth chart.