Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden — long tired of seeing his franchise quarterback injured — doubled up on offensive tackles in the draft by taking Kolton Miller at 15th overall in the first and Brandon Parker in the third round.
Gruden saw the worst (when No. 4 is not in the lineup) and planned accordingly. The head coach is clearly intent on keeping Carr clean and upright and hopes Miller and Parker can fulfill that role.
Nevertheless, what about the backup quarterbacks?
“The Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position,” Gruden said referring to that team winning a Super Bowl with backup Nick Foles after starter Carson Wentz was lost for the year.
For such a critical spot, Gruden and the Raiders interestingly remain status quo. Gruden is relying on EJ Manuel and Connor Cook as Carr’s backups.
Is that a wise investment?
That duo curiously was part of the worst-case scenario when No. 4 was down and out. Sure, you can argue there are few quarterbacks who can provide the same leadership and play Carr does. Yet, the Raiders to essentially do “nothing” at the position is intriguing, to say the least.
On one hand, it is not unforeseen. Gruden was a tremendous fan of both Cook and Manuel when they were entering the NFL landscape as prospects. They appeared on Gruden’s QB Camp segment on ESPN when they were going through the draft process.
“I’m kind of surprised that Connor hadn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game,” Gruden said of Cook. “He got in as a rookie late in the year after (Matt) McGloin got hurt it was out of necessity, but after Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ.”
You can sense true disappointment there in Gruden. He called Cook a “gunslinger” who could make all the throws. Plus, he possesses moxie to stand in the pocket and deliver. The Raiders in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.
Then there is Manuel. The former first-round pick that played after Carr got hurt against the Broncos in October and drew the start against the Ravens the following week. He completed 55 percent of his passes throwing one touchdown to one interception.
“I like EJ Manuel, honestly,” Gruden said. “I think EJ’s a young, talented guy.”
Gruden is big on his players having a genuine love for the game, a passion for football. Manuel has that in spades.
“He’s been in the facility down there working out on his own every day,” Gruden said long before he could gain access to his players in April.
Gruden is hard charging with Plan A: Keep Derek protected and the Raiders offense is a well-oiled machine humming along. Sometimes, the best-laid plans go awry. Are Gruden, offensive coordinator (in title only) Greg Olson and quarterback coach Brian Callahan the coaches to unlock and unleash what made both Manuel and Cook successful college QBs?
While Gruden noted his offense would not be as terminology intensive as it once was, the offense relies on a quarterback’s intellect to diagnose the defense and put the offense in the best possible positions for success.
Carr has proven he has those tools. His backups?