With the recent ineptitude of the Las Vegas Raiders offense, many fans have called for the insertion of backup signal-caller Marcus Mariota. However, is the change even worth it?
The Carr Is Stalling Again
After the first month of the season, an article of this style would have been ridiculous. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was a front-runner for the MVP award. Carr’s play was a major reason why the team was once sitting at 3-0. Then the controversy came. First, it was the resignation of head coach Jon Gruden. Under Gruden’s tutelage, Carr had his best statistical season. For a myriad of reasons, he was gone in the midst of Carr’s best start in his career. Next was the loss of Henry Ruggs III. A speedster and former first-round pick, he had developed a nice chemistry with No. 4 and was quickly becoming the number one wide receiver. Of course, he was then involved in a tragic car accident that left a woman dead. He is now facing 46 years in prison.
After all of this, it was fair to expect some initial regression from Carr. He had experienced a lot, and the team had gotten worse around him. As such, when he struggled against the New York Giants in the first game since the Ruggs incident, many were quick to give him a pass. Then the struggles continued. The Raiders’ offense sputtered on Sunday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, and then it hit a new low against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In those games, Carr had 772 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions. These struggles have led many to ask for Mariota to start, or at least be used more.
When fans discuss Mariota, it seems as if their minds still wander to his days at the University of Oregon. During those days, Mariota was a superstar. In three seasons, he had over 13,000 total yards, a 105/14 TD/INT ratio, and 29 rushing touchdowns en route to a Heisman Trophy and the number two overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft.
— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) December 22, 2020
Drafted by the Tennessee Titans to be the savior of the franchise, Mariota never seemed to get it going. After an adequate rookie year, the former Duck enjoyed his best season in 2016. With 3,426 passing yards and 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, he was named to the Pro Bowl. In a strange turn of events, he suffered a broken leg on the exact same day as Carr. From here, it was all downhill. Over the next two years, he would post a 24/23 TD/INT ratio, and in 2019, he would be benched after seven games. This led to him signing with Las Vegas in the offseason.
The Grass Is Not Always Greener…
Much of the reason Mariota was ousted from Tennessee was the timidness he played with. At times, he just appeared to be completely checked out. Rarely taking chances down the field or using his legs, he was a shell of his former self. Then came the Thursday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Chargers. In this game, Mariota was brilliant. With 226 yards passing, one touchdown, and one interception, he was serviceable in the air. However, it was the running game that truly excited Raider Nation, as he had 88 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
Alas, this is a very small sample size. While Mariota was eager to use his legs in this one and was playing with a great deal of energy, why would anyone expect this to continue? After all, it started the same way during his Tennessee run. Then, they were so eager to move on that they traded for Ryan Tannehill. At this point, Mariota is likely just being who he is. A backup level passer who is a big name on a team that is struggling, eyes are always going to turn his way. As they say, “the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the team.”
Currently, Carr is third in the NFL in passing yards with 3,041. He is also eighth in completion percentage. Is Carr a perfect quarterback? Absolutely not. He has not taken nearly enough chances as of late and has never been a threat to run the ball. However, he is still the leader and face of the team. A team captain every year, he is consistently mentioned as the leader of the team. Not only would benching Carr lead to the end of his time in Las Vegas, but it would also truly signal the end of an era. The truth is that the Raiders can win with Carr and with all that the team has experienced in this season, he has earned the right to at least finish it out.
*Top Photo: John Locher/Associated Press