The quarterback change followed the news of the team firing second-year head coach Josh McDaniels after a dismal 3-5 start to the 2023 season.
The Raiders have promoted the team’s linebackers coach, Antonio Pierce, to interim head coach for the remainder of the season. His first coaching decision was giving rookie O’Connell the start.
Pierce told reporters that his reasoning for going with O’Connell is that “we just feel like it gives us the best chance” to win.
In a press conference that followed the announcement of the Raiders’ new quarterback, O’Connell was asked how he plans to manage the pressure of leading the team on the field.
O’Connell answered, “For me, it’s my faith. I’m a Christian, and I think that in the good and bad in life, there’s a plan.”
“The Lord has obviously brought me to this point, and I’ve learned more than anything that when he wants me to play, I’ll play and when he doesn’t, I won’t,” O’Connell continued. “I definitely rest in that. That allows me to sleep easy at night.”
Just days after getting the starting nod, O’Connell led the Raiders to a 30-6 win over the New York Giants. The rookie quarterback threw for 209 yards with no interceptions and completed 16 of his 25 passes for a 90.2 passer rating.
While at Purdue in 2021, O’Connell told The Huddle that his faith has always “been an important part of my life” but admitted that he hasn’t always done a great job of making it a priority.
“When I was a young Christian,” he said, “I wasn’t mature and often didn’t live how I knew I should be living.”
“As I’ve matured, I have done a better job of making faith more important,” O’Connell went on to say. “Though I still have work to do, I am working every day to make sure I put God in the driver’s seat.”