I can distinctly remember the moment that the then-Oakland Raiders drafted quarterback Derek Carr out of Fresno State University. My girlfriend (at the time) and I were at an Outback Steakhouse, and I had some variation of steak and lobster in front of me. The legendary “Old Man Willie” Brown came up, reminded us to call our moms, and announced the pick.
Very eloquently, I stated “Carr? Carr?! Vroom vroom, let’s [expletive] go!” It goes without saying, I was pretty excited. I stayed excited about the young passer for several years, arguing on his behalf on many occasions. During the second half of the 2019 season, my support slowly faded to the point where I confess, I wasn’t opposed to replacing him.
As the 2020 season approaches, I’m choosing to believe in Derek Carr one last time, almost in spite of all the reasons I believe he’s failed. And here’s why.
One More Ride: Giving Derek Carr Another Chance
The Tolkienesque Novel of Excuses
Derek Carr doesn’t have many career wins, he doesn’t have any career playoff wins, but one thing he has in spades? Excuses. Now, these excuses haven’t necessarily been made by him, as much as they’ve been made for him, again, even by yours truly.
I’ve written about this before, but year by year, Carr’s dealt with some crazy circumstances. In his rookie year, the team was completely devoid of talent. Carr didn’t have an offensive line, weapons, a defense, or a run game. The next year, Carr saw a coaching change, and with adequate improvements on the offense came substantial improvements on the statsheet. 2016 was the year that set Raider Nation on fire. He had a good run game, good receivers, a great offensive line, and most importantly, the same offensive coordinator for consecutive years.
You all know the rest, he broke his fibula on Christmas Eve, Todd Downing replaced Bill Musgrave, Carr didn’t kneel during the anthem, and he broke his back. Jack Del Rio completely lost the team and nobody suffered more than Carr. The next year, Gruden replaced Del Rio, gutted the roster, and even though Carr had a familiar face at offensive coordinator, it was his fourth change in five years.
In 2018, Carr’s leading wide receiver was 33 year old Jordy Nelson, who didn’t break 800 yards or four touchdowns. He sacked 51 times, and he threw the fewest touchdowns in a single season in his entire year, despite breaking 4,000 passing yards for the first time.
In 2019, Carr lost his best weapon, Antonio Brown, before the two even had a chance to play together, and despite breakout performances from Darren Waller and rookies Foster Moreau, Hunter Renfrow, and Josh Jacobs, the Raiders offense struggled to score points. Carr set career highs in yardage, yards per attempt, and completion percentage, but only threw 21 touchdowns.
One More Ride
Heading into 2020, it’s hard to find an excuse for Derek Carr. He’s had the same offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, since 2018. His offensive line, one of the best in the league, is healthy and returning as one consistent unit. As far as a run game goes, the man who should’ve been offensive rookie of the year, Josh Jacobs, is joined by Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker, and versatile switchblade Lynn Bowden Jr. The Raiders have more tight ends than they know what to do with, probably featuring Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, and Jason Witten all at once at points this year. First round pick, Henry Ruggs III gives Carr the speed he’s been lacking, Tyrell Williams is healthy, Hunter Renfrow will only be better in year two, Bryan Edwards has incredible upside, and Carr’s spent the whole off-season bonding with Zay Jones.
On paper, there’s no reason for Carr to struggle this year. The offense is built around high-percentage passes for yards after the catch, and they’ve added a ton of muscle for the redzone. If the offense doesn’t step up this year, there’s really only one place to point the finger, and that might be why the team brought in Marcus Mariota.
I don’t necessarily want that. My issues with Carr aren’t personal, I just want him, and as a result, the Raiders, to be great, and I know he can be. That’s honestly why most fans take issue with him.
The Unfortunate Truth
Do you want to know the real reason why fans have such crazy animosity for the quarterback? It’s not because he’s religious or because he doesn’t curse, or because he takes way, way, way too much pride in off-season bicep workouts. It’s because he’s a good quarterback.
That doesn’t make any sense on the surface. Why would fans hate Carr for being good? Surely, it would be the opposite? Almost. The resentment for Carr comes because Raider Nation has seen Carr make all the throws. Raider Nation has seen Carr be athletic. They have seen him pull off come-from-behind wins. They know about the arm strength, the accuracy, the football IQ, they know that on paper, Derek Carr is as close to a perfect quarterback prospect as you can get. But he’s far from a perfect quarterback.
Recently, Chris Simms did a quarterback ranking, and he listed Derek Carr at 19th for these reasons.
It hurts to hear it, but he’s absolutely right. Carr is lethal in crunch-time, but he’s far too passive during the rest of the game. It feels like the intensity isn’t consistent. Only Blake Bortles and Mason Rudolph check down on a higher rate than Carr since 2018, and neither man is a starter in 2020. Sure, that’s partially due in part to the Raider offense, but the way the Silver and Black offense completely disappeared in the second half of games last year was absolutely unforgivable.
A lot of Carr’s more avid defenders will accuse lapsed supporters like myself of being haters, that we’d desperately be clamoring to rejoin the bandwagon if the Fresno State product returned to elite form in 2020. And honestly? They’re absolutely right, but frankly, it should be obvious.
Just Win, Baby
Ultimately, every fan of the Las Vegas Raiders wants the same thing, wins. We haven’t been able to enjoy many of those recently, or even over the last twenty years. And whether it’s fair or not, quarterbacks get most of the credit… and the blame for the results of games. So, with only big brother David having more losses through his first six seasons, Derek’s familiar with the concept of the blame game.
But if that changed in 2020? If the Raiders became a playoff contender, and Derek Carr was not only being efficient, but effective? I bet you’d see many of Carr’s critics restored to their 2016 fandom. Raider Nation just wants the team to be good! They’ve been clamoring for a change at the position because they have reason to believe that’s what’s separating the team from success.
They’ve seen Patrick Mahomes take Alex Smith’s Chiefs to the Super Bowl. They’ve seen Ryan Tannehill light a fire under Marcus Mariota’s Titans. They’ve seen Lamar Jackson save John Harbaugh’s job in Baltimore. It’s hard to see other teams change quarterbacks and immediately succeed while the Raiders continue to struggle, and they do so with the same guy under center.
So here we are. There are no more excuses. Derek Carr wanted protection, coaching consistency, the support of his front office, a run game, and speed on offense? He’s got them. This is his team. At the very least, he has to not only be efficient, but effective in 2020. The numbers need to be there, there’s no excuse. If he wants to silence his critics? Then he’ll have to drag the Las Vegas Raiders, kicking and screaming, to the post-season.