Las Vegas Raiders quarterback competition: Can Aidan O’Connell hold off Gardner Minshew for 2024 starter?

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback competition Aidan O'Connell
Credit: Photo: Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders

As the Las Vegas Raiders bring their OTAs to a close and look toward training camp next month, all eyes will be on the Raiders quarterback competition between Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew to be the team’s starter in 2024. 

The Raiders quarterback competition between second-year pro O’Connell and journeyman Minshew is intriguing. Both quarterbacks bring unique strengths and experiences to the mix, yet they are similar. Both have overcome serious obstacles to make it in the NFL.

Both players talked with the media this week and publicly praised one another for their skills and for remaining supportive even though they know only one can be the Raiders quarterback starter.

“I think it’s been awesome. Gardner [Minshew] is a great guy and he’s really what you see is what you get, and he’s been awesome with me,” said O’Connell, who was 5-5 as a rookie starter last season after head coach Antonio Pierce took over. “And so, we want to make sure when we go out to practices, it’s a good practice. So, we want to make sure the offense is running smoothly and we’re executing. So, it’s been a fun competition.”

Gardner Minshew brings a wealth of experience to the roster, having navigated various offensive systems over his career and fighting and scratching for playing time since his days at Washington State. Like O’Connell, he is towing the company line and discussing cooperation despite the competition.

“I think we both put together a good camp so far, man, been pushing each other,” Minshew said of the competition between him and O’Connell. “But also, just enjoying each other, enjoying our room. We’re having a ton of fun right now being very competitive, and I think that’s only going to make our team better.”

Related: Raiders OTAs 2024: Must-watch storylines and key position questions

Did either Raiders quarterback gain an edge during OTAs?

Raiders quarterback competition Aidan O'Connell
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Over the past few weeks, the observers of Raiders OTAs in Henderson, Nevada, all agree that the Raiders’ defense got the best of the offense — no matter who was the quarterback. This isn’t surprising, considering both O’Connell and Minshew and the entire offense are learning a new system under first-year offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. The Raiders quarterback competition will likely come down to which player can adjust, learn, and master Getsy’s system the best by the time camp comes to an end.

While O’Connell seemingly has a leg up on Minshew in his second year with the Raiders, he, too, is having to learn a new system, so, in many ways, he says it’s much like last season as a rookie.

“Obviously, installing a new playbook, and so we’ve had some good days, we’ve had some not-so-good days, and I think a couple of weeks we kind of started slow at the beginning of the week, and then kind of picked it up,” O’Connell said. “And so, it’s just trying as fast as I can to really steal time back and try to continue to go over things over and over. The more you go over them, the more you’ll feel comfortable with them, and they won’t feel as foreign. And so, just trying to study as much as possible to try to get ahead. I try to recap the day and also get ready for the next day.”

As a six-year veteran, Minshew might be more familiar with the adjustment, but that doesn’t negate his challenges in getting up to speed while trying to prove to Getsy that he’s the best starter for the Raiders to win games in 2024. How has he adjusted to Getsy’s system and this new Las Vegas offense?

“Yeah, I think you kind of learn how you learn best,” Minshew, who was 9-8 as a starter in Indianapolis last season. “I think for me, it’s a lot of voice recordings, hearing the play and walking through. Drawing it up doesn’t do as much for me personally. So, I think just figuring out what works for you, and then implementing that as much as you need to.”

So, the short answer on who will be the Raiders quarterback in Week 1 is still unknown. No one has taken a lead in the Raiders quarterback competition. We still don’t know who will be the Raiders starting quarterback and won’t until Pierce’s team gets down to it during training camp next month.

More: Las Vegas Raiders’ Aidan O’Connell’s triumph over adversity on the path to the NFL

Why O’Connell may have edge in Raiders quarterback competition

Raiders quarterback competition Aidan O'Connell
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Despite no clear edge for either Raiders quarterback coming out of OTAs, some evidence suggests Aidan O’Connell will have a slight edge heading into July’s camp in Costa Mesa, California.

As mentioned, it’s not because O’Connell has a year in the system as he enters his second season as a Raiders quarterback. Instead, his head coach’s praise and his first-hand experience coaching O’Connell last season could be his advantage heading into camp.

“At the end of the day, listen, Aidan O’Connell played his ass off,” Pierce said in March. “He did a helluva job for us. 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.”

Those are strong words of support from Pierce but it’s not a tacit coronation of O’Connell as the Raiders starter. Still, Pierce was the first coach to go out on a limb and start the rookie last year after the disaster that was Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer. Positioning O’Connell as the leader going in gives the young signal caller confidence and at least a jump start on Minshew. Something Pierce believes O’Connell deserves after last season.

Related: Raiders Schedule Release: Las Vegas opens season in LA vs. Harbaugh and the Chargers

Why Minshew may have edge in Raiders quarterback competition

Raiders quarterback competition Gardner Minshew
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It’s easy to see his experience as a distinct advantage for Gardner Minshew in the race to become the first-team Raiders quarterback. After all, he’s played in 49 NFL games compared to O’Connell’s 10. Minshew has also played in two postseason games for the Philadelphia Eagles, although it was to take a few snaps and down the ball in blowout wins.

Experience and what Minshew was able to do last year with the Colts after rookie starter Anthony Richardson was lost for the season due to injury certainly play to his advantage and point to why general manager Tom Telesco brought him to Las Vegas on a two-year, $25 million contract during the offseason.

“Gardner played well last year with the Colts. I mean, he was in the Pro Bowl, so obviously had a pretty good year,” Telesco said of Minshew last month. “He’s always performed at a high level when he’s given that opportunity, so to have both those guys here competing for the job, we’ll see how it goes.”

While no one would call Minshew a true mobile quarterback, he has a knack for creating plays outside the pocket, which is an advantage over the more statuesque-like O’Connell. But, much like his personality, Minshew is free-flowing, which has caused him trouble during his career. Costly turnovers and unnecessary risks have been an issue. Yet, he is what he is. Unlike O’Connell, Minshew isn’t still trying to discover who he is as a player. The journeyman is well known and so are his strengths and weaknesses.

The flashes of brilliance and big in-game heroics have set him apart and why teams continue to give him a shot. Although Minshew wants to win the starting job in this Raiders quarterback competition, he’s enjoying having O’Connell as his teammate and continues to be impressed with him. Minshew intimated his approach was much more relaxed when asked if he had directly addressed the fact they were competing for that starting role.

“It’s been pretty smooth. I think we had initial conversations of just getting to know each other,” Minshew said. “And, I mean, one good thing about Aidan is he’s a team guy, I’m a team guy — we both want to win, we both want to get better. So, I mean, there’s really not much conflict of interest there.”

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Scott Gulbransen is an NFL writer, editor, and video host for Sportsnaut and is the creator and host of Silver and Black Today and Audacy Sports original podcast covering the Las Vegas Raiders. Follow him on X.com @LVGully.

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