Raiders QB Derek Carr

On The Ray-Dar: This Carr Crash Is Difficult To Avoid

This Carr crash is proceeding like any other car accident: We just can’t look away from it. The aftermath of the Las Vegas Raiders’ decision to bench – and effectively replace – Derek Carr at quarterback is beginning to take shape.

The reactions are as varied as the people who provide their two cents. But we just can’t take our eyes off of it. Why? There’s science that denotes that car crashes stimulate empathy in the human brain, and we are programmed to be empathetic. Studies show our negativity bias also explains why we can’t divert our attention from disasters.

The Raiders’ Carr crash is no different.

We heard from Derek’s big brother, David Carr, a former quarterback who’s now an analyst on NFL Network, on Monday. If you haven’t gotten a chance to digest what the elder Carr said, here’s to you:

So, this is where it gets complicated with Derek Carr and the Raiders…

I empathize with David in defending Derek. That’s what any big brother should do. You back your brothers’ play, no matter what. And I empathize with the plight Derek finds himself in as he’s no longer the Raiders’ starting quarterback, a position he held for the majority of nine seasons (minus the games missed due to injury or this benching). I also empathize with Derek having to deal with the Silver and Black. There’s no getting around this one, folks. The Raiders aren’t a model franchise in terms of functionality and stability. So dog pile on the organization you want all day long; I’m not going to stop you.

Where I stop is in delivering the kind of absolution David was giving to his brother Derek. Whether the elder Carr meant for it to sound this way or not, he was insulating his younger sibling and effectively washing Derek’s hands clean of the Silver and Black mess. That’s not going to play right with me. For as bad as the Raiders organization has been, Derek has been just as ineffective.

The most absurd sticking point of David’s defense of Derek was highlighting the trades of wide receiver Amari Cooper and pass rusher Khalil Mack while noting Jon Gruden was fired and Derek had an affinity for Gru. Well, who decided Coop and Mack wouldn’t be Raiders any longer? Chucky. Thus, Carr was a willing participant in the disastrous merry-go-round.

I’ve said it plenty of times, and I will continue to say it:

Carr and Coach McDaniels

Just like how the Raiders can’t define complementary football, absolution isn’t in my dictionary, people. Derek is every bit responsible for his share of the stake that is the Silver and Bleak. I’m not obtuse, however. There were glorious times when No. 4 was under center for the Raiders. He was captaining the offense the last two times the Raiders made the playoffs: in 2016 and 2021, the only two postseason trips the team has made since that embarrassing defeat in Super Bowl XXXVII way back in the 2002 season.

Yet, there were plenty of head-scratching moments in there too, with this most recent 2022 campaign being a pure nosedive for Derek Carr.

Consider the new scheme implemented by Josh McDaniels, the porous offensive line, and so on. But it was still Derek pulling the trigger when it was all said and done. And what severely undermined that argument is how the new starting quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, performed with all those “issues” surrounding him, too. If Stidham did a supreme faceplant against the league’s top-ranked San Francisco 49ers defense, that argument holds its weight in gold.

Instead, the rarely used backup quarterback, who had his chances dashed before him, made the most of it. He turned chicken s*** into chicken salad and invigorated a Raiders squad thought to be thoroughly dejected by the dismissal of a team captain.

It was one game!

It was one game; I’ll give you that. And one game is hardly a true barometer of quarterback success. But in that one full start, Stidham provided the Raiders offense with a quick-strike, mobile quarterback who made decisions quickly by either throwing or scrambling.

That harkens back to something David poignantly pointed out about the franchise overall. In his rant, he portrayed the Raiders as a team stuck in old ways and left behind by the times. Indeed, the Silver and Black have been. But not in the way David portrayed. First, let’s hear from former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason on his assessment of Carr moving to a cold-weather team like the New York Jets, for example:

The Raiders and Carr were stuck in their old ways

Yeah, Las Vegas was stuck in old Vegas ways, for sure. Because Carr was the perfect signal-caller for the non-modernizing Raiders. While the rest of the league has gone to quarterbacks that can run when needed, the Raiders rolled the dice with Carr for nine seasons. Well, unsurprisingly, they rolled “snake eyes” quite often.

The Raiders banked on a quarterback who flew in the face of the modern athletic quarterback who can win with both his arms and legs, both contractually and philosophically. Carr was rewarded with rich contract extensions, and coaches revolved around him in an attempt to draw out the best in him. Carr resisted the new wave, sticking to the guns of an old gunslinger, standing in the pocket, and firing his six-shooter from the hip. He wanted to win with his arm, no more, no less.

Stidham gave the Raiders a different look, albeit in a 37-34 overtime loss. He was undeterred and moved out of the pocket and scrambled. He even drove his shoulder into defenders to gain an extra yard or two.

With how the NFL has evolved with supreme athletes at quarterback and, in turn, supreme specimens to hunt them down on defense, the Raiders are in dire need of a change.

Change is a painful process at times. And the sting of the decisions will be felt for some time. Advancement can be an uncomfortable thing. But now, both the Raiders and Derek Carr must endure it, for better or worse.

*Top Photo: D. Ross Cameron/AP

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