The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Las Vegas Raiders appear to be in the midst of yet another collapse in the second half of the season.
As is customary for any restless fan base that has toiled in mediocrity for the better part of a decade (which is sadly an improvement over the previous ten years), blame must be assigned without bias. More often than not, quarterback Derek Carr finds himself in the crosshairs of a frustrated Raider Nation; deciding a change at the position could help alter the fortunes of an organization that has maximized its assets and become the picture of functionality.
What’s that? It’s actually been the opposite?
Well, be that as it may, the sun could be setting on Carr’s tenure as the Silver and Black’s signal-caller. The fans even resorted to chanting for ‘4‘ to be replaced by the far less capable Marcus Mariota during this past Sunday’s disappointing showing against the Bengals. With one year remaining on the Fresno State product’s deal and more attractive options at the position possibly becoming available this offseason, don’t be surprised to see Mike Mayock (or possibly a new regime) decide to tear things down.
However, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The Raiders are technically still alive in the playoff hunt with seven games to play, and my Carr cape couldn’t be any tighter.
Carr is far from a perfect quarterback, and if a top-five player at the position wants to come to Vegas next season, you can cut ties with DC. I’ll help him pack his Bibles personally. However, the illusion that Carr is holding the Raiders back from being a perennial power is ludicrous.
This season is yet another example of Carr turning piss intoÂ Jesus Juice. Every batch isn’t going to be sweet. Are the Raiders a wreck? The case can be made, but let’s discuss the four reasons youÂ #CantBlameCarrÂ for the follies of the 2021 season.
You #CantBlameCarr for the Gruden fiasco
Is Carr a company man to a fault? Absolutely. You’d have a better chance of getting DC to recite “How Do U Want It” by Tupac verbatim at a presser than finding him uttering a disparaging word about a current teammate or coach on record. But Carr’s figurative and literal closeness to sullied former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is visible as the weeks go on.
The man who made Spider 2-Y Banana a running joke had a playbook longer than the King James Bible, which may explain Carr’s affinity for the offense. It cannot be denied that DC was playing his ass off to begin the season, even with some issues we will discuss soon right in front of him. While Gruden had his flaws when it came to getting conservative too quickly, his fingerprints are all over this offense (and in some places, you can see where he choked the life out of it).
The Gruden dismissal rocked the entire team. This wasn’t a performance-based firing. Emails exposed Jon doing his best to replace Rush Limbaugh at Fox News once he hung up his headset. The responsibility immediately fell on Carr to not only be the face of the franchise again, but the voice as well.
There’s no handbook for Carr to follow on how to guide a team to success after something like this because it’s never happened.
Which leads us to reason numero dosâ€¦
You #CantBlameCarr for Greg Olson’s ineptitude
Gruden’s resignation left offensive coordinator Greg Olson in charge of running the Raiders’ offense. At first, some assumed Olson’s familiarity with Carr would lend itself to some sort of skill that Olson has always lacked. You know, the ability to be a good play-caller.
Olson has had a long career on the sidelines in the NFL. Be that as it may, he’s never engineered a high-powered offense with him at the helm. The first two weeks under Olson gave the fan base hope. The team did not lose any explosiveness, and in some cases, they became more aggressive. That excitement evaporated rather quickly.
Here’s a fact that shocks no one. Carr isn’t a quarterback you give the reins to, like a Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. He needs a competent coordinator to build off of. If the calls are good, he’ll maximize them. If the calls are whatever the hell Olson dials up, you get the lethargic offense we’ve seen the last three weeks. The offense has been off ever since.
You #CantBlameCarr for the Henry Ruggs tragedy
First and foremost, this is in no way an attempt to minimize the loss of life that took place.
With that being said, losing Ruggs due to a horrific DUI-related homicide may have been the blow this team can‘t recover from offensively. Ruggs appeared to be rounding into form to start the season, not just as a deep threat but as a true number one receiver. Without the threat of Ruggs to open up the field, the deficiencies of the remaining pass catchers become more apparent. Carr spent the better part of the early season dismantling the idiotic narrative that he only checked the ball down. Even with his current ugly stretch, Carr is still near the top of the league in passing yards per game and deep passing. But losing a weapon as strong as HRIII becomes more evident with every snap.
Carr’s best option now is Darren Waller, but other problems hinder him these days as well…
You #CantBlameCarr for the Raiders O-Line being in flux
The Raiders’ offensive line rebuild was panned by pundits around the league, but for all the wrong reasons. The issue wasn’t shipping out Trent Brown (never on the field) and Gabe Jackson (a cut candidate for years) as much as it was trading center Rodney Hudson and placing faith in a 38-year old Richie Incognito at guard. Drafting Alex Leatherwood certainly didn’t help matters either. Much like last season, the Raiders’ starting offensive line won’t finish the way they penciled it in to start camp. Incognito is closer to retirement than suiting up for a game.
Denzelle Good suffered an ACL tear in the first game of the season, and the aforementioned Leatherwood is now at guard after showing he had no business at tackle. The unit has performed better, especially center Andre James, but it’s obvious this is a below-average unit. The running game cycles between spotty and nonexistent. Josh Jacobs went from a bright spot to a fifth-year option question mark. One could argue, though, that no one would get a fifth year running behind this line.
The lack of a running presence puts even more of an onus on Carr to make things happen. However, this line doesn’t exactly excel in pass blocking either. Brandon Parker has taken over at right tackle, which means more often than not, he’s going to need some help with quality pass rushers. But what about when everyone not named Kolton Miller is getting beaten like a drum?
As mentioned previously, Waller is Carr’s best option. Nevertheless, if he’s being bracketed in coverage and two of your three offensive linemen are allergic to understanding a “stunt” concept from the defensive line, how much time does Carr really have to diagnose and make things happen?
What about Carr’s other weapons?
Hunter Renfrow is valuable, but sometimes he’s too busy breakdancing on routes to get open. Bryan Edwards seems to be regressing, and Zay Jones is more of a presence in name than in performance. Don’t even mention DeSean Jackson to me either.
The Raiders need either a running game to open up play-action to keep defenses honest or a little extra time for routes to develop. This offensive line rarely gives Carr these things.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports