Las Vegas Raiders brass, including interim head coach Antonio Pierce, were on hand to witness Michael Penix Jr. on Friday during the Pac-12 championship game. Could they have been eyeing the future at quarterback?
With Penix and the Washington Huskies outlasting the Oregon Ducks, the future NFL quarterback went out with a big win at Allegiant Stadium. On hand to see all of this was Pierce, seen rocking a Raiders jacket that sent social media into a frenzy (h/t CBS 8’s Logan Reever). The current coach surely has a vested interest in getting scouting underway, especially with his team in a bye week. Despite his long-term status up in the air, scouting is a 24/7 affair that doesn’t stop regardless of who the coach is.
Still, getting a front-row seat to witness Penix firsthand will have its benefits if Pierce makes it to the 2024 NFL draft.
As far as the Raiders are concerned, the quarterback position has seen much turnover the last couple of years. Derek Carr, Jarrett Stidham, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, and now Aidan O’Connell—that’s instability personified.
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe recently went over the state of the position for the Silver and Black. Essentially, the team’s headed towards a transition, says Howe.
“Jimmy Garoppolo signed a three-year, $72.75 million contract last offseason, but the Raiders benched him for O’Connell during their midseason wipeout of all things former Patriots. Unless the next regime prefers Garoppolo, the Raiders may be moving toward a release, which would cost them $28 million in dead-cap space. O’Connell, the fourth-round rookie, has a couple of months to audition for a future role.”
Aidan O’Connell or Michael Penix Jr.?
It’s an unfair question when you consider the mess that O’Connell was thrown into. Be that as it may, the Purdue product has stayed above water—he’s even had flashes of brilliance playing under Pierce. At the same time, if Penix is on the board when the Raiders pick, do they pull the trigger?
The six-foot-three, 213-pound Tampa native has had a notable run the last couple of seasons at Washington. He threw for 64 touchdowns, posting an impressive 65.6 completion percentage. Of note, Penix also led the NCAA and his respective conference in passing yards this past season with 4,218. You can add seven rushing touchdowns to that total.
A highly poised passer, Penix possesses the field vision you’re looking for in an NFL signal-caller. While not a true “rushing quarterback,” Penix is still a mobile threat—he’ll buy you time in the pocket with his feet—something that the Raiders desperately need. With an arm sufficiently strong enough to get the ball to receivers downfield, he could be the weapon that unlocks the Silver and Black’s offense—whether it’ll be Bo Hardegree or Ben Johnson (perhaps), it remains to be seen.
*Top Photo: Getty Images