HENDERSON, Nev. -- While Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the NFL's concussion protocol and Raiders coach Josh McDaniels is holding out hope Garoppolo will be healthy enough to play Sunday at the Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, SoFi Stadium, CBS), the Raiders might have to look elsewhere on the roster.
As in starting either 15-year veteran Brian Hoyer, who last won an NFL start on Oct. 2, 2016, or rookie Aidan O'Connell, a fourth-round draft pick from Purdue who has yet to be active for an NFL game.
"You evaluate it in real-time," McDaniels said when asked about the massive difference in experience between Hoyer and O'Connell, should they be the choices if Garoppolo cannot play. "Experience is valuable, and at the same time, we will try to play the right person, based on what the situation is and how practice goes, if that's what it comes down to.
"Everybody's going to get ready to go, and I think sometimes, experience is a good thing. It doesn't mean that it's going to determine how it's going to go for one guy versus another. I mean, there's a lot of guys that don't have a lot of experience that can play well because they're prepared, they do the right thing to get ready and they go out and, ultimately, what matters is how they perform. Not how long they've been in the NFL, or how many games they've played in or what have you."
A quick look, then, at the pros and cons of starting Hoyer and/or O'Connell, as McDaniels said, "If that’s what it comes down to."
Silver and Black: If experience is the standard, then Hoyer is the guy, no ifs, ands or buts about it, right? He has been in the NFL since 2009 and the Raiders are Hoyer's eighth NFL team. He also has seven-plus seasons in McDaniels' system, so there's even more experience on which he can lean on. In his previous 14 years in the NFL, Hoyer started 40 games and completed 59.4% of his passes for 10,668 yards, 53 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions.
No wonder he was the best quarterback, by far, at the start of Raiders training camp when Garoppolo was rounding into shape after March surgery on his left foot and O'Connell was getting his NFL feet wet. Hoyer is the quintessential bridge guy, one other veterans on the team trust to manage a game, and while he may not take enough chances to win a game, he shouldn’t lose it on his own, either.
Silver and Blechh: Look, Hoyer has not won an NFL start in nearly seven years, when he was under center for the Chicago Bears against the Detroit Lions. In fact, he has lost 12 straight starts. And for those of you who still scream that wins and losses are not a QB stat, facts are facts. Going the Hoyer route would not elicit much excitement, least of all from a hungry fan base expected to hold a 64-36 advantage at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, per Vivid Seats.
In fact, going the Hoyer route and losing to the Chargers may disillusion enough fans that they tune out after a 1-3 start, allowing the Green Bay Packers and their fans to execute another takeover of Allegiant Stadium in Week 5
Silver and Black: The Raiders drafted O'Connell, who passed for 9,219 yards and 65 touchdown passes during his career at Purdue, to sling the rock. Even if the plan was for him to sit and learn at the knee of Garoppolo. Thing is, O'Connell's biggest perceived weakness -- his inexperience -- turned out to be his biggest strength in the preseason.
O'Connell played fearlessly, as if he did not know he was supposed to be intimidated. He completed 69.4% of his throws (43-of-62) for 482 yards and three touchdown passes without an interception in three exhibitions and looked every bit a future NFL starter. In fact, he looked better than every other NFL rookie QB in the preseason and Raiders fans wondered how and why O'Connell did not win the No. 2 spot of out camp. Yeah, he's that popular with a weary fan base.
Silver and Blechh: As inspiring as making O'Connell the starter might be for a certain segment of the fan base, it might also signal a death knell on the season, an indication that the Raiders are in full rebuild mode. Again. Remember, it was said this offseason that if O'Connell played even one meaningful snap this season, something terrible had happened.
And well, here we would be, right? Yes, he looked great, at times, in the preseason, but remember, that was against second- and third-stringers and guys who are no longer in the league. And never will be again. Standing tall in the pocket with no experience and with Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa bearing down on you? That's a different kettle of fish, entirely.