With another offseason now in the rearview mirror, all eyes will turn to Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Will he deliver in 2021?
There was a love affair between Raider Nation and Carr after the 2016 season. It was the only playoff trip this franchise had seen since 2003. Carr breaking his leg before the playoffs got underway will forever be one of the greatest what-ifs in team history. Naturally, the 2017 season was filled with tons of hype and expectations. Sadly, the Raiders floundered and since then, it’s been an endless debate. One side claims that Carr is at fault for everything that’s wrong with the team, terrible defense be damned. By the same token, there’s a crowd that puts Carr on a pedestal, this too is a problem as ‘4’ is far from perfect.
Is this ‘it’ for Carr?
This will be Carr’s eighth season and so far, the results are what they are. One playoff appearance, two 7-9 seasons, and an 8-8 season. One winning season, just one. However, to be fair, the team has seen its share of second-half season collapses. This falls more so on the shoulders of Jon Gruden and that putrid defense. At the same time, Carr’s the face of the franchise, so he isn’t free of blame.
Back in 2019, the team sat at 6-4 only to suffer a terrible punch to the face as they lost to the lowly New York Jets. An epic collapse followed as the team missed out on the playoffs. The following season was more of the same following a debacle in Atlanta. You can point your finger at Gruden and his defensive unit all you want, but at what point does Carr get his share of the blame? Interestingly enough, you could see a growing number of fans that began pointing to this upcoming season as ‘do or die’ for Carr. You only have to look up Raiders Twitter to see one of many examples.
The numbers don’t lie for the Raiders QB
If you look at Carr’s numbers from an unbiased point of view, they’re above average at best. Through his seven seasons, he’s averaging a little over 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Yes, we know about the three straight 4,000 yard seasons and 10 or fewer interceptions, but it didn’t translate to wins. Again, we know about the defense but these numbers don’t exactly strike fear into opposing defenses. He seems content to throw the ball away at times as well. Some fans have dubbed him ‘Captain Checkdown‘ and point to his inability to give his receivers a chance to make plays. It’s all about perspective, if you look at the film, there are surely examples of Carr making plays.
While most people will point to Carr’s numbers as proof of his excellence, there are some bad stats as well. He’s thrown a total of 71 interceptions and 63 total fumbles. That’s an average of 10 interceptions and nine fumbles a season. Not exactly dominance personified. In his defense, Carr does have several comebacks under his belt along with several game-winning drives. Unfortunately, you have to point to that sole playoff appearance, not much to show for in the win column. At the end of the day, if the team isn’t playing in January, it doesn’t mean much.
The Gruden and Mariota effect in 2021
Gruden has largely been a proponent for Carr, though we know he’s also had an affinity for mobile signal-callers. In his first Raiders tenure, he took journeyman Rich Gannon and turned him into an NFL MVP-caliber quarterback. During his stint in Tampa Bay, Gruden also seemed to favor Jeff Garcia, another mobile quarterback. Fast forward to 2021 and now he has Marcus Mariota on the roster.
In his lone piece of extensive action, Mariota showed real value against the Los Angeles Chargers following Carr’s groin injury. He revitalized the offense, especially with his legs, as the Raiders nearly pulled off the win.
If Gruden believes that the miles are running out on Carr, he may look in another direction. In particular, towards Mariota, who has the ability to keep a defense honest because he’s able to tuck the ball and run. It would be a different offense, maybe one that would work better and give the team new life. Before Mariota’s arrival, the Raiders didn’t possess a quarterback capable of challenging for the starting gig. It’s all hypothetical but what if the Raiders struggle out of the gate? At the risk of sounding corny, could Gruden actually park the Carr?
*Top Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post