The Las Vegas Raiders’ seismic pivot at the quarterback position is a content creator’s dream of a situation as it can be dissected in a variety of ways and spoken or written about for days. The angles are almost endless. Just look at the reactions on social media platforms. Hence, it’s time to Ramble, ladies and gentlemen.
I provided my initial thoughts on DC4’s departure in my “Cash For Clunkers” column, and you can enjoy even more on the topic from my fellow Ramblers on the site. It’s a legit Royal Ramble free-for-all, with everyone looking to throw each other over the top rope to get their two cents in.
So, enjoy it.
However, the Silver and Black aren’t done with the regular season just yet. The Raiders have two more games left in a hellacious 2022 campaign that saw them bench a longtime franchise quarterback and give him permission to be away from the team and its facilities.
Derek Carr is out, Jarrett Stidham is in
(Alright, one last note on DC4: This is a stone-cold business decision. For how ridiculous as it sounds that Carr may trip or something odd at Raiders facilities — if he does, gets hurt, and can’t pass a physical — Las Vegas is on the hook for $40-plus million in guaranteed coin.)
Stidham becomes the new No. 1 quarterback, with undrafted free agent Chase Garbers serving as the backup. If there’s anything working in Stidham’s favor, it’s that he’s steeped in Josh McDaniels’ philosophy and scheme. So much so, when McDaniels and his staff were going through the installation of the offense, players approached Stidham with questions since he had history with McDaniels dating back to when he was a 2019 fourth-round pick by the New England Patriots. This is likely a reason why McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler reached out to their old Patriots cohorts to swing a deal to get Stidham in Las Vegas.
The new Raiders QB speaks
“It’s like anything. It’s like anything in life: when you do something repetitively over and over again, you just get comfortable,” Stidham said in his first media availability on Thursday. “At the end of the day, my job is to facilitate the offense in certain ways, and I’ve got to follow my rules and try and get the ball in these guys’ hands and do my job. And that’s something I’ve just been trying to prepare hard for and that’s all I can do.”
Stidham gets the reins of the Raiders’ offense with a familiar play caller on the headset, and the goal is to win the final two games. Up first are the superior San Francisco 49ers. As the owner of the top-ranked defensive unit in the league, a QB swap isn’t ideal when faced with that circumstance. However, onward the Raiders must go. (For complete transparency, even if Carr was still the quarterback, I’m of the notion any Silver and Black signal caller was going to get dismantled by DeMeco Ryans’ defense).
How will Stidham and the Raiders fare against the 49ers defense?
What awaits Stidham and the Raiders offense is arguably the best pass rusher in the league: Nick Bosa. The Ohio State product has 17.5 sacks on the season and is by far the most productive QB hunter on the 49ers roster. Then there are linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner, who led the team with 119 and 110 tackles, respectively. And behind them is a hard-hitting throwback takeaway artist at safety in Talanoa Hufanga (84 total tackles and a team-leading four interceptions). The young safety looks like he should be part of WWE’s Bloodline storyline with Roman Reigns and crew.
The 49ers defense took a page out of the OG Raiders playbook by deploying fast and supreme athletes all along its defense to create a unit that suffocates the opposition. A large part of San Francisco’s eight-game winning streak is due to its fundamentally sound defense.
“Yeah, it’s a great challenge,” Stidham said of the 49ers’ defense. “I’m a firm believer that whatever it is in life that you do, you’re not going to get any better unless you do it against the best. So, it’s going to be a great challenge for us as a team; they’re good in all three phases. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m super excited about it, and I think it would be a great challenge for us. I know we’re looking forward to it.”
Josh McDaniels weighs in
McDaniels, who was queried about his longstanding relationship with Stidham, was realistic about what he expects this Sunday.
“I have no delusions of grandeur in terms of, like, ‘Well, this is going to be perfect.’ I mean, it wouldn’t matter who you’re playing with; against this defense, it isn’t going to be perfect,” he said. “But we’re going to strive to do the best we can each time out there, and he’s put in a great week’s work so far, and I’m sure we’ll have another good day today. I know mentally he’s ready to go, physically he’s ready to go, and maybe you have to contain the emotions a little bit for him, but that part once you get into the game, you get hit a little bit, hopefully he’ll settle in and play good football.”
That said, it’s not like Stidham has nothing to work with after the last two games. He’ll have league-leading rusher Josh Jacobs flanking or behind him. He’ll have elite wide receiver Davante Adams to throw to, along with tight end Darren Waller and frenetic wideout Mack Hollins. And slot receiver Hunter Renfrow is available, too.
“I think those are two good players that you want on your team,” McDaniels said of Jacobs and Adams. “With a quarterback facilitating the ball to those people, along with the other guys that are out there with them, I think that’s what we’ll try to get done. I know that those two guys are eager to play, and this is an interesting opportunity for all of us to really compete against a unit that I think obviously right now ranks as the best in the league. They certainly are playing like it, and it’s a great opportunity and a great challenge for everybody.”
Challenge is certainly an apt word for the Raiders’ last stanza of one heck of a 2022 season. It’s two final opportunities to get some victories but, perhaps more importantly, evaluate the roster for 2023. The matchups against the 49ers and the AFC West-dominating Kansas City Chiefs will give Ziegler, McDaniels, and owner Mark Davis all the proof they need to make roster tweaks, changes, or teardowns.
Let’s get ready to Ramble, y’all.
*Top Photo: NBC Sports/Boston