Las Vegas Raiders QB Jimmy Garoppolo

On The Ray-Dar: Raiders New Leading Man Wants To Earn It, But Will It Work?

Jimmy Garoppolo is the new leading man in the Las Vegas Raiders quarterback room, for better or worse.

Whether you like the signing or not, the natural progression of things pointed to “Jimmy G” being the logical choice for the team’s most important position in the collective minds of general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels.

Garoppolo, Raiders, And The “Patriot Way”

Steeped not only in success but also in the Patriot Way from New England, the San Francisco 49ers import shouldn’t be a surprising addition. Despite starting with the Patriots, and then the tangled web Garoppolo found himself in Santa Clara with the Niners, Garoppolo is given his chance to be the new Silver and Black leading man.

“Yeah, I think that’s the NFL. You never know what your path is going to be,” Garoppolo said during his introductory press conference last Friday. “Everyone has a different story, but I think as long as you keep rolling with the punches and keep believing in yourself, good things will happen. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by good teammates and good coaches, and good things have happened for me. So, just trying to keep that going forward.”

Moving forward is what the Raiders are doing after a 6-11 season in 2022 that culminated in an offseason deconstruction. Ziegler is going about rebuilding the Raiders in his and McDaniels’ vision, so much so that it’s eerily reminiscent of Reggie McKenzie’s teardown when he came aboard as the then-Oakland Raiders GM back in 2012.

But this isn’t the ‘fixing the books’ type financial reconstruction that RM engaged in. The Raiders aren’t in the same cap hell situation the former GM found himself in. This is about a philosophical change. A change that sees Ziegler and McDaniels leaning more into the Patriot Way despite saying they’d forge their own identity and wouldn’t be merely replicating what they’ve known so well. But when times get tough, you often go to what you know.

And that’s what Ziegler and McDaniels know.

Familiarity does tend to breed contempt, however. The proverb notes: Extensive knowledge of or close association with someone or something leads to a loss of respect for them or it.

Such seems not to be the case for Garoppolo, Ziegler, or McDaniels. After all, Garoppolo willingly followed the Patriot Power Couple to the desert. Point to the money all you want — comparatively, outside rookie-contract QBs, Garoppolo’s coin is the lowest, just behind the Seattle Seahawks’ Geno Smith.

“For me, it starts with, he’s very smart. He’s very smart. He taught me the game of football basically in the NFL,” said Garoppolo of McDaniels. “But he cares too about the game, like he cares about winning. You could really tell just talking to him that winning is important to him, and I wouldn’t say that’s true about everyone in the NFL. So, when you do get an opportunity like that, I mean, it’s hard to pass up.”

The 31-year-old Garoppolo is the new choice at quarterback, a spot that former starter Derek Carr held down for nine seasons. To his credit, Garoppolo knows the history and isn’t going to force himself as a leader, even if he plays the most important position. He wants to earn it.

“I think it’ll happen naturally; I don’t want to force anything or be unauthentic,” Garoppolo said. “I just want to be myself, and it’s done me well in the past. The hard-working part is setting the example for the young guys, bringing everyone along, and getting everyone on the same page.”

Will Garoppolo work out? Time will tell.

Ziegler, McDaniels, and Garoppolo have no choice but to make it work.

There’s still the offensive line that needs some strengthening. Ziegler did well by giving Garoppolo wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Philip Dorsett. That gives him a compliment of possession and speed-type pass catchers — along with elite Davonte Adams. But Ziegler also shipped off tight end Darren Waller. Regrettably, that leaves a void at the position with Foster Moreau as a free agent.

And, Garoppolo will need a semblance of a defense to support him; he had good ones in Santa Clara. To say otherwise would be fugazi.

Speaking of: When Garoppolo said “be unauthentic” all I heard in the halls of Raiders HQ was a whisper of “put it all on me”, the most inauthentic line said for the past nine seasons.

*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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