From day one, I have been Derek Carr‘s biggest defender. I would’ve been content if the Oakland Raiders took him early in the first round, and I was happy to forgive his slow start because the team had no run game, no defense, no offensive line and no receivers. I celebrated his rise in 2015 and 2016, where he looked like the quarterback I knew he could be. But then he got hurt, and things only got worse. A series of injuries, poor coaching decisions, and personnel changes set Carr back.
However, as 2016 grows further and further away, Carr just hasn’t produced enough to warrant the contract, and it could be argued he’s holding the Raiders back. His time with the Raiders isn’t over just yet, but he’s running out of time.
Derek Carr Is Running out of Time
Firstly, I wasn’t kidding when I said he’s had a rough time in Oakland. His first year, he had no weapons, and the team had a historically bad run game. In 2015 and 2016, Bill Musgrave built a pretty smart offense for Carr, built around bootlegs, moving the pocket, and big throws downfield.
Then Carr got hurt at the end of 2016. Over the off-season, Jack Del Rio opted to let Musgrave’s contract expire, replacing him with quarterback’s coach, Todd Downing. Del Rio lost control of his locker room in 2017, Carr broke his back, and things fell apart between Carr and his receivers, especially Michael Crabtree. On New Year’s Eve, Del Rio was fired for Jon Gruden, and things didn’t improve.
Another year, another offensive coordinator, and behind an offensive line with two questionably talented rookies at tackle, he failed to score a ton of touchdowns throwing to an admittedly troubled receiving corps. Martavis Bryant was suspended, Amari Cooper was traded, and the Raiders ended up starting an undrafted rookie, Marcell Ateman, with an ancient Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts.
Broken bones, bad receivers, iffy protection, shady coaching, and a consistently dreadful defense have gotten between Carr and success at the pro level. It would be irresponsible to say this has all been his fault. But it’s getting to a point where it’s naive to think he’s not to blame at all.
There’s no shortage of excuses for Derek Carr, but he’s almost 30 now, and he doesn’t have much to show for it. He’s the team’s all-time leading passer, but that’s mostly because of statistical inflation. He’s 33-48 as a starter, 4-25 against in 29 games against playoff teams (with another loss against Kansas City last week likely bumping that number up to 4-26), and to date, he hasn’t taken a single post-season snap.
The things that were true about Derek Carr pre-draft are still true. He still falls apart under pressure, he still tries to make too much happen on lost plays, and he still throws off his back foot. His pocket presence hasn’t gotten any better, and often, he only stares down one side of the field.
The NFL is very much a “what have you done for me lately” league, and Carr hasn’t done a whole lot lately. Since the start of 2017, the Raiders are 11-24, and he almost has as many games with multiple interceptions (10), as he does games with multiple touchdowns (11). In 16 of those 34 games, he threw it at least 30 times without breaking 300 yards, leading to an abysmal seven yards per attempt.
Running on Fumes
This is a quarterback that has broken 4,000 yards once in five years, has never made a playoff appearance, and has gotten a pass because once, three years ago, he beat the worst teams in the AFC and NFC South, with a little help from the NFL’s best offensive line and the eventual Defensive Player of the Year.
Maybe he cried on the field, maybe he didn’t, and with all the injuries that Carr has played through, there’s no questioning his heart. Physically, he’s one of the toughest quarterbacks in football, but mentally? It remains to be seen. He panics under pressure, he shies away from contact, and while it was fun to watch him clap back on social media, you can’t help but wonder if that’s not his insecurity getting the best of him.
Outside of his obvious love for the team, and desire to be better, what does Derek Carr have that makes him indispensable? He’s reasonably athletic but he rarely runs. He’s got a cannon for an arm, but he never takes shots downfield. Other than the bloated passing yardage record, the only great stat he has to his name is fourth quarter comebacks, which you could argue wouldn’t have been necessary if he played better in the first three.
After this season ends, the Raiders can get out of Derek Carr’s contract pretty easily. There will only be $7.5 million in dead cash, with the team picking up a combined $63,502,519 in cap space over the next three seasons. And that’s assuming the team flat-out trades him and isn’t able to find a willing trade partner.
This Raiders team is obviously not ready to compete, and likely won’t be any time soon, so why not free up some cash for some players that can actually help the team improve? The 2020 free agent class obviously remains subject to change, but players like A.J. Green, Jadeveon Clowney, Chris Harris, and Jimmy Smith are players that could come in and help the Las Vegas Raiders win immediately with the money saved from ditching Carr.
This isn’t the strongest quarterback class, and I’m not a fan, but something’s gotta give. Like most Raiders fans, I’d like to wait until Trevor Lawrence comes out in 2021, but it’s hard to blame Gruden or Mike Mayock for being impatient. Someone like Teddy Bridgewater or Case Keenum could come in and play band-aid while the Raiders wait until 2021 or bring a rookie quarterback along.
It’s been three weeks, and if Derek Carr from week one had showed up again, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The quarterback is the most important part of the offense, and Carr’s not carrying his weight. Carr has 13 games left this season, and if he doesn’t really start showing that he belongs, that he’s any different from someone the Raiders could get for a tenth of the price, maybe he should reconsider buying that house next to Jon Gruden in Las Vegas.