Antonio Pierce: Aidan O’Connell Has ‘Earned’ The Right To Compete For Starting Job
Aidan O'Connell, Antonio Pierce, Raiders
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell (4) talks with head coach Antonio Pierce during the second half against the Las Vegas Raiders at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders plan to return to the postseason next year, but head coach Antonio Pierce will need better quarterback play to do that. The team added veteran Gardner Minshew on a two-year deal in free agency and will almost definitely add another quarterback at some point during the 2024 NFL Draft, but the man returning from last year shouldn’t be forgotten either: Aidan O’Connell.

The fourth-round pick out of Purdue took over as the starter midway through last season and certainly had his struggles, but he also showed signs of being a capable starter in this league. Regardless of who else is brought in, O’Connell will be in competition for the Raiders’ starting job next season.

Pierce made that very clear as he said O’Connell’s play last season has earned him the right to compete for that starting quarterback spot, via Coral Smith of

“At the end of the day, listen, Aidan O’Connell played his ass off. He did a helluva job for us,” Pierce said. “You’re talking about a kid that has the mental toughness to play in the National Football League. Whatever happens and whatever we do it has to go through Aidan O’Connell. Being honest with you because he’s earned that right.”

O’Connell went 5-5 as a starter last year, throwing for 2,218 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions. While his numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, it was his poise under pressure and not being afraid of the moment that stood out, and he had the belief of his Raiders teammates.

Without a doubt, O’Connell has earned the right to compete and is likely the favorite to start for the Raiders as things currently stand. But Pierce certainly wants to make things competitive for his quarterbacks as he feels that will be best for the team overall:

“Like anybody else it’s all about competition,” he said. “And if we can make that room the most competitive room on our team, the quarterback room, we’ll be a good football team.”

Whether the Raiders use their first-rounder on a quarterback or not, the team will almost certainly bring in one more young quarterback through the draft. But they will have to go through Aidan O’Connell to get the starting job, and Pierce knows that won’t be easy for anyone.

Charles Woodson would love for Raiders to draft Michigan QB JJ McCarthy

The Raiders currently have the 13th overall pick, which means, barring a trade, they won’t be in position to draft one of the top three quarterback prospects. But there are other intriguing potential players the team could draft at 13, and Raiders legend Charles Woodson has his eyes on Michigan’s JJ McCarthy.

While Woodson may have a little bit of bias, considering he’s a Michigan alum, McCarthy is expected to be a first-round pick and has a wealth of talent that should translate at the NFL level. Woodson said his life would be perfect if the Raiders were to draft McCarthy, adding that while he may need a little time to develop, his ceiling is extremely high.