Raiders; Josh McDaniels; Derek Carr

With Derek Carr Gone, Who Deserves Blame For The Raiders’ Red Zone Failures?

The Raiders have finished outside the top 22 of red zone efficiency since the 2017 season. Many blamed former quarterback Derek Carr for the inability to finish drives with a touchdown, and for good reason. However, it seems as though the issues go deeper than Carr. I get it. “Shut up about Derek Carr”, but he is vital to telling this part of the story, so live with it.

Year After Year, The Raiders Consistently Fall Short In The Red Zone

Under Carr, the Raiders consistently fielded a high-powered offensive assault. With at least 19 touchdowns in each of his nine seasons at the helm, plus six 3,900+ yard campaigns, there was never doubt the Silver and Black could move the football. That is until the ball made it inside the 20-yard line.

Just to prove I’m not beating up on Carr for no reason, here are a few stats showing how abysmal the Raiders’ offense was within the red zone.

In 2022:
•Derek Carr finished dead last in red zone passer rating among qualified quarterbacks
•Derek Carr completed only 33 percent of passes from inside the 10-yard line, again last among qualified quarterbacks

In his career, Carr has completed 51.2 percent of passes inside the 10-yard line. For comparison, that puts him one spot behind Mac Jones in the same category.

Okay, okay. Enough piling on Carr. He is a solid quarterback between the twenties, but one of the worst of all time within the red zone. Understood? Good.

Derek Carr Was The Scapegoat Last Offseason; What Is The Excuse Now?

So, if Josh McDaniels and Co. rid themselves of such an anchor, why is Vegas amongst the least efficient red zone teams in the league in 2023?

Jimmy Garoppolo, the inverse type of quarterback from Carr, was thought to be the answer. He fits in well with the McDaniels scheme and, theoretically, has the traits needed to finish off touchdown-scoring drives for the Silver and Black. That goes to show that not all moves go according to plan.

Carr is still struggling in this area with his new squad, the New Orleans Saints. But with the issue still at the forefront in Sin City, maybe it is time to let him off the hook a bit. Shouldn’t the finger-pointing go toward the guy (Garoppolo) who has turned it over multiple times in the red zone this season? Or how about the play caller (McDaniels) who is “big braining” every decision inside 10 yards?

The Raiders OC Weighs In On Red Zone Struggles

What about offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi? Earlier in the week, the 35-year-old assistant vocalized his concerns with the red zone offense, plainly saying that the team must improve.

“I think as a whole, offensively, we have to improve in the red area. That’s a big goal for us this week moving forward. And, again, it’s more execution based in terms of penalties, missed opportunities, and getting a hat on a hat in the running game. The red zone production needs to be better,” Lombardi said with vigor.

He was then asked what’s the next step to getting over the hump and fielding an efficient unit. “First of all, we can’t commit turnovers, that’s one. And the second one is that we can’t commit penalties. The red zone is hard enough, and when you put yourself behind the sticks and then commit turnovers, you’re going to have a tough day.”

“Again, technique-based, execution-based, and then concentration-based. We did a good job of executing on third down throughout the series, but our execution down there needs to be at an all-time high; our mental stamina to finish those needs to be at an all-time high,” Lombardi relayed to reporters.

He wrapped things up with optimism, saying, “But players are eager to fix that, they are aware of it and ready to go to work on that.”

Can This Issue Be Resolved In 2023? Are The Raiders Doomed If They Remain This Inefficient?

Unfortunately, the Raiders may find it difficult to develop the much-needed red-zone chemistry with yet another injury concern at quarterback. Garoppolo suffered a scary back injury last weekend vs. the Patriots, calling his availability into question. It looks like it’ll be Aidan O’Connell and Brian Hoyer steering the ship for at least a week.

Relying on a 38-year-old journeyman and a first-year, fourth-round rookie to be efficient, especially in the red zone, and with Bozo the Clown calling plays, could turn into a complete and utter disaster. One thing is clear: the issues inside the 20-yard line will keep this team from winning as many games as it could have otherwise.

Even when Jimmy Garoppolo does return, he has been one of the biggest problems in this area. We can blame the play calling, too — Lord knows I do — but eventually, the finger has to be pointed at the guy who is turning the ball over in the most crucial moments.

Derek Carr may not have been the answer for the Raiders, and in some areas, he certainly was the problem. But the Fresno State alum cannot be blamed for the putrid red zone effort in 2023. Not in Las Vegas, at least.

*Top Photo: Lucas Peltier/USA TODAY Sports

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