All week the talk surrounded Derek Carr’s performance in cold weather games and on the East Coast. That is the past but what about Carr’s future? The upcoming matchup versus the Chiefs should answer a lot about Carr’s future with the team.
Back to Kansas City
Once upon a time, Carr looked like the future of the AFC West as he entered the MVP conversation in 2016. However, Mahomes broke out with the Chiefs, won MVP last year and never looked back as the face of the AFC West.
Carr may not be able to outplay Mahomes and all the speed he has at the skill positions. However, Carr needs to prove he can help the Raiders offense stay on the field and match the Chiefs offensive power.
The Raiders QB is 2-9 versus the Chiefs in his career and he has lead the team to only one win there over that span. D.C. will remind Raiders fans it is a team game, of course, so not everything is on him.
Nonetheless, he needs to prove he can beat the Chiefs if he wants to be the future of the Raiders. Mahomes is not going anywhere and Carr needs to prove he can at least keep the pace.
Let’s not pretend the Chiefs defense is great either as they rank in the bottom ten for yards per game and the bottom half in scoring per game. That’s why Carr needs to have a big game if the Raiders going to have any chance.
The cold weather might prevent Carr from shredding the defense statistically through the air but Gruden and him need to find a way to convert key plays in the red zone and third down. There’s been a lot of talk about Carr and Gruden’s chemistry in year two working together in the offense. All that is void if they can’t show it versus the Chiefs and Andy Reid.
Every week this season it seems like we are talking about how it is do or die time for Derek Carr. Those are the consequences you face when you are leading a team that is 26th in point differential. Not surprising since Oakland gets blown out big when they lose and narrowly wins.
All those do or dies add up. Factor in that the Raiders are among the league’s youngest teams. Plus, the team’s transition moving to Vegas next year, entering year two of a GM and year three of a coach.
What more validation do you need for questioning the 28-year-old’s long-term future with the Silver and Black, especially when the Raiders can cut him after this season with only $5 million in dead money?
Sure, it’s not been all bad for D.C. this year. Dude holds an 81.9 grade from PFF. He is completing 70 percent of his passes and ranks behind only Drew Brees in terms of completion percentage as a starting QB. Plus, Carr sits 15th in passing yards, 14th for touchdowns and 16th for interceptions nearly three quarters through the season. He is 12th in first downs and 13th in passes over 20 yards too.
This is why Carr’s future is so divisive. On one hand, he displays the traits and intangibles you want in franchise quarterback. Yet, other times he looks mighty pedestrian or at least trying to do too much on mediocre team.
You can point to moments throughout Carr’s career where crucial mistakes cost his team. Sure, it is a team effort and he does not play defense but there are certain moments where Carr has forced the issue and cost Oakland momentum or put the D in a tough spot. The fumble in the redzone versus Green Bay comes to mind but also a few seasons ago, in JDR’s final season, Carr mistake cost the Raiders any chance at the playoffs as he made critical errors versus the Cowboys, Eagles and others.
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There are other times when Carr faces teams with another young franchise signal caller. Carr could outplay or match quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Sam Darnold, DeShaun Watson and Kirk Cousins on traits in theory. However, for one reason or another, he doesn’t separate himself from that pack and gets knocked off that elite QB pedestal.
Remember, the Raiders were up 10-0 in the first half versus the Chiefs earlier this year. Are they that team or the team that got blown out in the second half?
This is the question the Raiders have been trying to answer all season. Are they the playoff team that can beat Indianapolis, battle Houston and dominate the Broncos? Or are they the team that gets blown out by Green Bay and Minnesota and barely beats Cincinnati?
The answer might finally reveal itself in Week 13 versus the Chiefs. They are playing a playoff team with an elite quarterback in the cold and trying to keep their season going versus a division foe on the road which gives Carr an opportunity to answer questions that have been plaguing him his entire career.
Win or lose the Raiders are playing playoff football
Playoffs get even harder with a loss to Kansas City but it is not over. A win could give Oakland some breathing room in the final quarter of the season. Sounds like a metaphor for Carr’s status as franchise QB too.
How Carr looks in the final weeks as the Raiders fight for the playoff will determine his future status with the team. Last week’s loss to the Jets dropped the Raiders percentages to make the playoffs even though they started the day in the final wild card spot. Carr got benched and the Silver and Black went from surprise playoff favorites to long shots.
Either way, the Raiders will need to beat Tennessee, Jacksonville, Los Angeles and Denver after the Chiefs to keep their playoffs hopes going. The last two games are division rivalries so you can never overlook them. That is especially true when LA and Denver have nothing to play for but ending the Raiders season.
Tennessee and Jacksonville also matchup well versus the Raiders. The Titans are still in the playoff race and Jacksonville ain’t that far out. If the Raiders show up like they did versus the Jets their season could end before they even play their AFC West foes.
Again, that is why a win versus Kansas City is so crucial as it would cement the Raiders as a legit playoff contender. Carr and the Raiders can gain some serious confidence by beating the Chiefs which could help carry them into a nice playoff streak headed into the playoffs.
Is the End of Carr in Motion?
A win over the Chiefs would also buy Carr some more time before RaiderNation really starts talking about taking his replacement.
Otherwise, a loss could signal the start to the end of a playoff run in Oakland’s final season as home to the Raiders. A loss and a bad performance from Carr could certainly mean the end for Carr as the franchise QB.
At the very least, a bad loss to the Chiefs is the start to the end for Carr with the Raiders. Assuming last week’s benching and blow out to the Jets didn’t already put the end of Carr in motion, fate could be sealed.
Carr will always be one of my favorite players and Raiders. However, there is little he or I can do if he does not show up on Sunday. A bad loss and performance in the Kansas City cold with the playoffs on the line could very well end Carr’s future with the Raiders.