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Mailbag: Why is Aidan O’Connell not QB2?

Answering Raider Nation’s questions for the week

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Green Bay Packers v Las Vegas Raiders
Aidan O’Connell
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

It’s time for the Week 6 edition of our mailbag questions as the Las Vegas Raiders are set to take on the New England Patriots. However, most of Raider Nation’s questions don’t have to do with the game, and I can’t say I blame people for that.

Let’s get to it!

Q: Why is Aidan O’Connell not QB2?

A: I’ll preface my answer by saying this isn’t what I’d like the Raiders to do nor do I think this strategy is right or wrong, just my read/best guess on the situation.

Before the season started, The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen talked about this very topic on the State of the Nation podcast and I can buy what he was selling. Nguyen said that the Raiders would probably keep Brian Hoyer as the second-stringer so that Hoyer can come in mid-game if Jimmy Garoppolo goes down instead of throwing the rookie into the fire. And that’s what has happened so far this season.

The thought process is it’s more hectic when a quarterback has to enter a game that he didn’t start versus filling in for the starter from the jump. So, they’d rather have a veteran who has experience as a backup/jumping into the middle of a game than throw O’Connell into a situation he hasn’t been in since his early days at Purdue. Then, if QB1 has to miss the next week, the rookie will start as the coaching staff has a full week to get him ready to go versus say five minutes for the injury timeout.

Essentially, the Raiders just don’t want to overwhelm O’Connell in year one by forcing him to come off of the bench cold.

Q: If Josh McDaniels (and Ziegler probably) gets fired, is there a fire sale that would take place afterward? Could that be a reason Mark seems hesitant to fire McDaniels and Co. Also is McD and Z the most unpopular HC and GM in recent memory? Feels like the entire NFL hates them.

A: Typically when a new regime comes in, especially when there’s a change in general manager, a fire sale takes place as they want to bring in “their guys”. In my opinion, a big part of it has to do with ego, meaning people want all the credit for building a winning team. So, if McDaniels and Ziegler get let go at the end of the year, I’d expect to see a teardown of the roster.

As far as McZieg’s popularity, their connection with the Patriots makes them an easy target as most people, including myself, can’t stand the amount of success New England had over the last couple of decades. I definitely think they’re the most-hated combo among Raider Nation in recent memory, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that extends league-wide as McDaniels certainly isn’t well-liked in Denver or Indianapolis.

Q: Will the play calling change and will McDaniels ever give Mick Lombardi a chance to call plays? Just want to see our offense score more than 20 points a game.

A: I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen. McDaniels seems hell-bent on running “his system” and it’s an “I’ll believe it when I see it” type of situation to me when it comes to him changing his play calling. Also, I think his ego is too big to turn the reigns over to Lombardi and I don’t know how much different the offense would be. Part of the reason why Lombardi has the job is he was McDaniels’ assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019 and coached the Patriots’ wide receivers in 2020 and 2021.

Q: If McDaniels is gone, would you be OK with things if they kept Ziegler? Or would you rather have a new GM/HC pair (not sure that’s needed)? The team also has Champ Kelly in the wings which might make an attractive GM candidate.

Dave Ziegler, Mark Davis, Josh McDaniels
Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A: I wouldn’t mind if they kept Zielger in that situation as I’d be interested to see what he can do without McDaniels around, but I’ve always gotten the feeling that they’re a package deal. Also, if this season continues to go south and this year’s rookie class doesn’t step up, it’s going to be hard to justify keeping the general manager around.

Kelly would definitely be an intriguing option if the Raiders move on from Zielger. I like that Kelly has experience on both the draft and pro scouting side, so he’d be a strong candidate in my opinion.

Q: Do you have any preferred iDL trade targets?

A: Not really. I’d rather see the Raiders hold onto their draft capital and get younger defensively rather than trade for who’s on an expiring contract. They should be sellers at the deadline, in my opinion.

Q: My last was not a question but a rant as you pointed out. Here’s another. Back when the Seahawks were in the AFC West and the Kingdom was still there. My ex-wife at halftime pealed off my Raiders jacket and said that she couldn’t understand my devotion to this team. They can’t win anything! My reply was they’re gonna come back and take this. They did, in overtime. She wanted the coat walking out. No. “You didn’t want to be seen wearing it earlier.” She got the house and half my pension in the divorce. But, I still have the jacket. Go Raiders!

A: I have no words other than this story is hilarious and I love it! Go Raiders and wear that jacket proudly! LOL!

Buying or selling our defense?

A: Jordan Love definitely gave the Raiders a few gifts last week, but I have liked what I’ve seen from the defense recently. Guys like Tre’von Moehrig and Malcolm Koonce have stepped up and they’re playing much better team defense lately. I’d give it a couple more weeks before I’d say I’m “buying” the Raiders’ defense, but they’ve definitely shown a lot of growth that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with.

Has the o-line shown any improvement over the course of 5 games?

A: Marcus actually went over this on our review of the Packers game on ‘Tape Don’t Lie’. The offensive line’s run-blocking is slowly getting better, but they still aren’t good at creating rushing lanes or really moving defensive linemen out of the way. In pass protection, I think the recent string of sacks has been misleading for how the line is playing.

Per Pro Football Focus, Garoppolo has only been pressured on about 24 percent of his dropbacks which is the second-lowest rate among qualifying quarterbacks. However, the amount of pressures he faces that turn into sacks is 21.2 percent which jumps up to 10th in the league.

Marcus gave a much more detailed explanation of that at the 33:55 mark of the video hyperlinked above if you’re interested.

What's going on with Kolton Miller? Has he regressed in some way? Is he injured? Or is he just getting no help from Parham or the TEs?

A: This question is kind of similar to the last one. I don’t think Kolton Miller has regressed that much. He’s been beaten for a few sacks over the last few weeks, so I understand where the question stems from, but those are the only or the few times he’s losing in pass protection.

It’s not like he’s giving up a ton of pressure as PFF has only credited him with nine pressures surrendered so far, which is a little less than two per game. If he maintains that pace, he’ll only give up 31 on the season which would be tied for a career-low. For what it’s worth, PFF has Miller as the seventh-highest-graded offensive tackle in the league.

How long does McDaniels continue with Jimmy G.? Raiders offense is in the bottom 5 after playing 3 of the worst defenses in the league. Only Buffalo's D was average or better.

A: I still think Garoppolo gets at least half the season before McDaniels makes a switch, not that I’m advocating for that. If the Raiders can’t score more than 20 points this week, then maybe it happens sooner, but that’s McDaniels’ guy. So I think he’ll hitch his wagons to Jimmy G for a while. If O’Connell had a better game against the Chargers, that probably would have put more pressure on the head coach to make a change.

That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, email them to or look for our weekly call for questions on the site. The latter will publish on Thursdays throughout the season.