In a week from now, Derek Carr will celebrate his 27th birthday. With that milestone, the cornerstone of the Oakland Raiders graduates to a new level of NFL QB. The notion of Carr as a young quarterback vanishes. Now, he is a seasoned leader. With that, distinction arrives a different grading criterion for him. As Oakland continues to build around Carr, one fact stands out: Carr’s legacy remains at stake.
What does that mean? In other words, how history reflects on Carr changes with each season. In that case, Carr and the Raiders need to add hardware to the trophy case soon. Whether Derek Carr cares about his place in history is not the story. The issue remains is how fans, media, and the public will see him.
When Carr signed that contract, that deal set the standard for quarterback compensation. Thankfully, other teams decided to pay more. In what looks like a bargain, Carr only brings home 25 million a year. However, for that contract a 28-34 record and 61.3 completion percentage cannot occur. Granted, defenders will discuss bad teams and dropped passes. While true, Carr, for all of his talent does hold the ball a bit long occasionally.
When Carr fractured his leg to end 2016, hope arose for an improved 2016. The season began well, but spiraled out of control. Carr’s back injury was not his fault. Freak injuries occur. On the other, where Carr could have stepped up is with his coaches. From early on, Todd Downing looked ill equipped to run an NFL offense. Similarly, Jack Del Rio allowed Carr to take the heat for all of the teams’ failure. Coachability is a fantastic quality. On the other hand, readily accepting the role as a scapegoat is not.
To his credit, Carr handled many off-field distractions with class. Despite prodding from podcast hosts, he refused to engage with rumor or hearsay. Although the Raiders finished 6-19, fans need to remember who still played hard, even when the season fell apart.
The New Coach
For the next decade, Jon Gruden will coach the Oakland Raiders. Under those circumstances, Carr will need to gel with him. In Gruden’s career, excels with quarterbacks at the age of 34 older. With the exception of Chris Simms for a 10-game span in 2005, Gruden did not flourish consistently. As a result, Gruden needs Carr as much as Carr needs him. Carr represents a chance to mold a quarterback, shake him of bad habits, and unleash his creation on the world. With Gannon, Johnson, and Garcia, Gruden tinkered with an offense to suit their strengths. These passers were late in their careers, there was not much molding as much as hard coaching.
If Derek Carr managed to win multiple championships with the Raiders, that cements his place in team history. Through the injuries, criticisms, and general headaches, he would have persevered. On the other hand, if the Raiders do not win during the balance of his career, critics will sharpen their knives and take harsh aim at his career. Whether right or wrong, it must be. For as great as Dan Marino and Warren Moon were, they both finished storied careers ringless. For Derek Carr, anything less that sustained excellence could resemble failure.