Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his role on the team has been a point of contention for Raiders Nation ever since Mark Davis brought head coach Jon Gruden back to Oakland, and even as I write this, it’s unknown whether he’ll be the starting quarterback in 2019. However, should Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock pass on a quarterback this year, there are some things that the young quarterback must do to guarantee his return in 2020.
Spider 2y Why Do People Pretend to Know Better?
The biggest lie that anyone will tell you is that they know what Jon Gruden is thinking. Much like late Al Davis before him, the only thing that anyone knows for sure about Gruden is that nobody knows anything for sure. Respected analysts will swear up and down that he is taking a quarterback this year, but equally respected names will say that Carr is his guy. So this article doesn’t write anything in stone, but it does lay down a loose guideline. If Carr hits all these marks, it’ll be hard for Gruden to move on.
Last season, Carr threw for 4,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, and he did so with a skeleton crew around him. His offensive line was a problem when it was healthy, which it almost never was, and outside of tight end Jared Cook, he didn’t have many explosive receiving options.
This year, that has changed. Mike Mayock and Gruden went out and signed formers Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown and added a plethora of new talent to the Raiders receiver corps. Carr is going to go from Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, and Marcell Ateman to Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, and J.J. Nelson at receiver.
If Carr is set to return in 2020 and beyond, he’ll have to break 4,000 yards again. While he has only broken that mark once, it’s worth noting that he was close on many other occasions. In 2015, he came up 13 yards short, and he missed the vast majority of the week one game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The year after, he tragically broke his fibula in week 16 with 63 yards short of the total.
If there was anything for Raider Nation to complain about in 2018, it was Derek Carr’s touchdown total. Career highs in completion percentage, yards, and yards per attempt are nice, but if you’re not scoring touchdowns, you’re not winning games. Just like with yards, his new weapons should facilitate more scoring. Carr’s new weapons caught more touchdowns (21 combined) than he threw last season (19), so he won’t have excuses if he’s consistently leaving the scoreboard lacking.
Carr has averaged 24 touchdowns a season in his career so far, and that’s a decent place to start. Ideally, he should throw for at least 30 touchdowns, but a conservative target needs to be somewhere between 25-30. And that’s not asking too much, he’s done it before (twice), and 13 of 32 current starting quarterbacks in the NFL threw at least 25 touchdowns last season.
It’s impossible to go an entire season without throwing any interceptions. Peyton Manning couldn’t do it, Drew Brees couldn’t do it, and Tom Brady couldn’t do it, it just can’t happen; there are too many variables. There are bad passes, misread defenses, and great plays by defenders. Not to mention that if Carr rips a pass to Jalen Richard, it bounces off his hands, and a defender catches it instead, that’s not on Richard, that’s a pick for Carr.
However, that doesn’t mean Carr is perfect. Far from it, last year, he had some really terrible interceptions to start the season. Late against the Los Angeles Rams, he couldn’t decide between forcing a pass to Jordy Nelson or throwing the ball away so he did both, and it ended up in the hands of Cory Littleton instead. Words can’t do this dreadful pick justice, so here it is.
It’s worth noting that after a rough start, Carr went on a crazy streak without an interception. He had the third longest string of passes without an interception (332) in NFL history. But as has been the case with both yards and touchdowns, Carr has to take advantage of his new weapons to have career bests in yards, touchdowns, and interceptions.
“Wins Are a Quarterback Stat”
While it doesn’t make sense, wins are a quarterback stat in the court of public opinion. Tom Brady hasn’t thrown for the most yards or touchdowns in a career, but he’s won the most games, and he’s won the most championships, so he’s the best to ever do it.
In reality, quarterbacks are just another cog in the machine. A great quarterback with a terrible offensive line can’t read the defense or deliver good passes, and even if he does, perfect passes hit the turf if he doesn’t have good receivers. Assuming his blockers block and his receivers catch, he could have the game of his life and still lose if his defense is bad. And don’t let anyone fool you, his defenses have been bad.
Since Derek Carr joined the team, coaches have come and gone, and he’s seen a complete transformation of the roster, but the defensive issues have remained the same. As long as anyone can remember, the Raiders haven’t been able to generate a pass rush, even when they had arguably the best rusher in football on their team, and they haven’t been able to stop tight ends.
But as Patrick Mahomes and the dreaded Kansas City Chiefs showed last year, you get pretty far if your offense is dynamic enough. So while it isn’t fair to expect Carr to carry Oakland as far as Mahomes did last season, he’s expected to score enough points to carry the team over six wins.
The Funny Truth
As I said at the beginning of this article, nobody knows what Gruden is going to do. There’s a chance that Carr checks all these boxes and all it does is raise his trade value so Gruden moves him. There’s a chance that Carr underwhelms, but Gruden sticks with him because he wants to prove he can fix him the way he fixed Rich Gannon.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this, Derek Carr has no excuses this year. His offensive line is solid, he has good receivers, and for only the second time in his career, he has the same offensive coordinator that he had the year before. He doesn’t have to be in the MVP conversation, he doesn’t have to win the Super Bowl, but he has to prove that, given the tools, he can be a guy Jon Gruden will build around.