Is Gardner Minshew Signing the End of Raiders’ Quarterback Woes?
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew II (10) draws back to pass Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, during a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

It is no secret that the Las Vegas Raiders roster was screaming out for a new quarterback after Jimmy Garoppolo’s disastrous start to Raiders life, followed by his falling foul of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Rookie Aidan O’Connell deputized reasonably well without being spectacular during his first professional season, leading to the Raiders’ management team looking for a new man to star in the pocket.

The Raiders signed “Jimmy G” to a three-year, $67.5 million contract in March 2023. Still, the 32-year-old’s days at the Allegiant Stadium are numbered, mainly because cutting him saves $11.26 million in cap space. Garoppolo was benched after a dreadful start to his Raiders career, leading the lead in interceptions. Through six starts, Garappolo finished with a 65.1% pass completion rate, 1,205 yards, seven touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a meager 77.7 rating. Those are hardly figures anyone betting on football online would be remotely excited about.

A Move For Jayden Daniels Looks Unlikely

The Raiders clarified they were keen on LSU Tigers’ Jayden Daniels, the Heisman Trophy winner. There has been plenty of chatter about the Raiders trying to trade up to secure Daniel’s services, partly fuelled by Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce and Daniels’ strong relationship from their days together at Arizona State.

However, the Raiders are currently set for the 13th overall pick, and the top three picks are with the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders, and New England Patriots, three franchises in desperate need of a new quarterback. Swinging a trade to move into the top three picks under these conditions is unrealistic, especially when Daniels, Drake Maye (North Carolina), and Caleb Williams (USC) are three highly-rated quarterbacks expected to be snapped up at the earliest opportunity.

O’Connell Could Come Good, But He’s Not the Man For Right Now

Nobody expected Aidan O’Connell to be thrown in at the deep end so early after being selected 135th overall in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The former Purdue Boilermakers man enjoyed two full college seasons as a starting quarterback and was widely expected to play second fiddle to Garoppolo for the 2023 NFL season.

Of course, fate has a beautiful way of working, and O’Connell stepped in for the injured Garoppolo on October 1 and went 24-of-39 for 238 years in a 24-17 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers. Exactly a month later, O’Connell was named as the Raiders starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

O’Connell was hit-and-miss throughout his rookie season, which is to be expected, especially when your first head coach loses his job midway through it. On the one hand, O’Connell only managed 171 yards and one interception in the dire 0-3 defeat against the Minnesota Vikings but then threw 248 yards and four touchdowns in the high-scoring 63-21 demolition of the Chargers. However, let’s not forget ins 9-of-21 for a mere 62 yards, including not completing a pass after the first quarter, as the Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-14 on the road.

Most rookie quarterbacks need time to develop and hone their skills, but the Raiders do not have time. They need a quarterback who can consistently perform week in and week out. It is much better to have someone put in 7.5/10 performances every week than a 4/10 in one game and an 8/10 in the next.

What Does Minshew Bring to the Table?

Signing Gardner Minshew to a reported two-year, $25 million contract with $15 million guaranteed seems like a leftfield move on the Raiders’ part. At a time when the Raiders needed some stability in the quarterback position, they signed a player who had played for three different colleges for over four years and was now joining his fourth NFL team in his sixth year as a pro.

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Minshew as the 178th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Minshew was expected to play as backup to Nick Foles, but Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Minshew started 12 games during his rookie season, throwing 3,271 yards, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also made 344 rushing yards from 67 attempts.

In 2020, Foles was traded to the Chicago Bears, and Minshew took over as the starting quarterback. Injuries limited Minshew to eight starts, during which he threw 2,259 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Minshew spent the next two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles playing as Jalen Hurts’ understudy. Hurts’ form limited Minshew to only nine appearances (four starts), leading him to sign a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts in time for the 2023 season.

Injuries to Anthony Richardson gave Minshew the chance to shine. Minshew started 13 games and threw a career-best 3,305 yards as the Colts went 7-6 with him as a starter. Those figures earned Minshaw a call-up to the 2023 Pro Bowl as an alternate.

Are There Other Options Available to the Raiders?

There were rumors that the Raiders were considering throwing some money at 35-year-old Kirk Cousins, a free agent. That will not happen because Cousins just signed a four-year, $180 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Bears’ Justin Fields is another player the Raiders are rumored to be interested in. The dual-threat quarterback doesn’t put up impressive passing figures—he’s averaged 2,224 yards per season in his first three years as a pro—but there is no doubt Fields has talent.

A more likely option is for the Raiders to trade up enough to clinch J.J. McCarthy in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft and either throw the 2024 Rose Bowl winner in at the deep end or let him learn from Minshew while pushing for a place in the starting lineup. Exciting times are ahead for Raiders fans.