In every winning NFL franchise, the relationship between quarterback and head coach must be rock solid. As the Oakland Raiders appear ready to offer Jon Gruden a megadeal to coach them, change appears imminent. Yet, the fact remains: Gruden’s success with the Raiders depends on Derek Carr.
When Al Davis traded Gruden to Tampa Bay, it helped the coach cement his legacy. However, Gruden inherited any head coach’s dream situation. Tampa employed an all-time great defense. Granted, Gruden relied on Brad Johnson to manage the offense. During the Super Bowl season, Tampa ranked twenty-fourth in yards and eighteenth in points. The Buccaneers were not about to open up the offense. On the other hand, Gruden skillfully schemed to limit his quarterbacks’ interceptions to a league low of ten.
Following the Bucs demolition of the Raiders in the Super Bowl, Gruden‘s offensive stamp on the team became evident. Johnson increased his attempts to 570, which led the NFL. As a result of a more aggressive style with a limited passer, Johnson increased his interceptions to 21. Now, that is either a sign of Gruden’s faith in his approach or desperation to quiet the naysayers that he won with Tony Dungy’s team. Winning a Super Bowl with Derek Carr shuts everyone up.
After Brad Johnson departed for Minnesota, Gruden used Chris Simms, Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Tim Rattay, Luke McCown, and Jeff Garcia. He wanted these players in Tampa. Former General Manager Rich McKay left for the Falcons. Gruden assumed control of the franchise. The Buccaneers did not win another playoff game after defeating the Raiders. In return, Gruden’s reputation as a coach took a hit. Now, Oakland could give him a shot to repair that damage.
Like it or not, Derek Carr enters the Gruden situation with a great deal of influence. While he is a coachable passer, he holds interesting chips.
- Jon Gruden built his reputation as a passing guru on the backs on veteran players. During his career, he never developed a younger signal caller into one of the league’s elite. At 26, Carr represents the chance for Gruden to mold him into what he believes is an upper echelon passer. If the Raiders win a title with Carr, under Gruden’s tutelage, that become the most significant aspect of his coaching career. Walsh tutored Montana, Holmgren taught Favre, being from that lineage is important to Gruden. His Super Bowl does matter, but Brian Billick won with Trent Dilfer. A second one, this time with a pure passer elevates Gruden. That coaching tree means the world to him.
- The Raiders still owe Carr millions. In addition to Carr’s high salary, he carries significant dead cap money over the next two seasons. If the Raiders wanted to escape his deal, they would pay excessively to do so before 2020. In addition, if Carr does not play through the life of his deal due to poor performance, that resides squarely on Gruden’s shoulders. While McKenzie inked him, the majority of this deal would fall with Gruden on the sidelines. Not many coaches with Gruden’s ego want to have the monumental failure on their watch.
In reality, Jon Gruden and Derek Carr need each other. First, Carr needs a tough-minded, offensive thinker to bring the best out of him. On the other hand, Gruden requires a skilled passer to implement his scheme. With millions in both of their pockets, cooperation must occur rapidly. Not mention, winning forges an eternal legacy for each.