Approximately 670 days ago, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr entered a game versus the Indianapolis Colts the presumptive MVP. When he left the field, his entire career changed. Now, the specter of doubt hovers over his career. With the Raiders seemingly punting on 2018, Carr’s role with the team and perception among the fanbase shifted.
When Trent Cole tackled Carr, many wanted flags, arrests, and investigation. Now, for the last time, the hit was legal, period. Carr broke his leg. The Raiders won that game and did not win another for the rest of the season. As Carr rehabbed and started to gain strength, the eyes of the fanbase looked with anticipation. Yet, the biggest move occurred off the field. When Jack Del Rio changed offensive coordinators, the fortunes of the Oakland Raiders changed. With Bill Musgrave firmly in Denver, Todd Downing managed to run the Raiders right into the ground.
If you listen to the numerous postgame press conferences in 2017, one theme remains: Carr takes blame. Meanwhile, Jack del Rio hung his quarterback out to dry on several occasions. Why didn’t Carr fire back? The endless weeks on mea culpa became unbearable to endure. Granted, the quarterback is the leader, but Carr took too much upon himself. If you have eyes, you can see that drops and woeful playcalling hindered the Raiders in 2017.
Actually His Fault
For all of the Carr defense in the previous paragraph, an outline of where he erred must happen. First, how does a quarterback with a strong arm float so many deep balls? If you watch the Cleveland and Miami games, Carr’s vertical passes stay aloft forever. When the Raiders invested millions on the interior line, the ability to climb the pocket and step into passes should follow. Yet, too often Carr sails one.
Despite decent yardage and completion yardage, Carr appears fine with taking the short gain, instead of testing a defense. In league of dollar bills, Carr tries to nickel and dime defenses down the field. Eventually, teams learn to adapt, forcing Carr to make decision. In football, quarterbacks should dictate the action, not vice versa. However, Carr looks comfortable with the overly safe approach.
When Jon Gruden assumed control of the team, a new dynamic took shape. If you still think Reggie McKenzie is in charge, stop reading. This op/ed is not for you. Anyway, with Gruden firmly in charge, the Raiders made drastic moves. First, he released Michael Crabtree, Carr’s favorite red zone target. The loss of Crabtree hamstrung Carr. In Crabtree, Carr enjoys a vertical threat on the stutter go or the security blanket in the redzone.
While Amari Cooper wasn’t Carr’s favorite wideout, they enjoyed a level of chemistry that he does not possess with anyone on the current roster. Now, comes word that Carr and the players , those that remain, suffer through a fractured relationship.
At 27, Carr enters his prime with uncertainty. With roster upheaval and his own shaky job status ahead, what can he do to prove to the Raiders that he’s the franchise quarterback.
- Stop taking the blame for every failure. Granted, arm punt, floaty picks are his fault. Yet, atrocious playcalling is not. Own your actual faults and let the coaches or teammates that actually failed speak.
- Stand up to your head coach. From Dennis Allen to Jon Gruden, Derek Carr defers too much to the coach. In reality, the play calls should all fall to Carr, whether Gruden is an offensive whiz or not. If you look around the league, the elite passers run their offenses with an iron fist.
- If Derek Carr walked into the locker room and started chewing someone out, no one would know. Yet, it could go a long way to owning that locker room. When successful, Jon Gruden had veteran leaders that commanded respect. With a bare roster, that needs to fall upon Dere Carr. The Raiders still need to play ten games in this season.
As mentioned, Derek Carr’s career changed versus the Colts. Whether he can return to his form, remains a mystery. With the Raiders poised to start over again, their highest-paid play and quarterback needs to step up or step off.