ALAMEDA, Calif. — Jon Gruden is regularly asked in news conferences about a given player’s development.
Often, the response doubles as a direct message to that player.
In the spring, he expressed his displeasure with safety Obi Melifonwu. In the summer, he was underwhelmed with wide receiver Martavis Bryant, his backup tackles and reserve quarterback play. An honest, less-than-rosy response reflects a culture of accountability he looks to instill.
On Tuesday, the Raiders coach was presented multiple opportunities to opine on his franchise quarterback following Monday’s season opener. Derek Carr tied a career high with three interceptions in a 33-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. There were windows for negativity.
Gruden passed on them.
Again and again.
If Gruden sent a message this week to Carr following their first regular-season game and defeat, it was one of belief and support. The message was delivered both publicly and privately, and it seems well received. The two will look to translate cohesion into success Sunday at the Denver Broncos.
“I don’t have any doubts that Derek Carr is going to be great,” Gruden said in a Tuesday news conference. “I can’t wait to get started and get ready for the Broncos.”
Carr started great Monday.
He opened the regular season 20-of-24 with 199 yards and an interception in the first half against a stingy Rams defense. In the second half, he was 9-of-16 for 104 yards and two interceptions. Both picks were in the fourth quarter, the second of which was returned for a 50-yard touchdown to clinch the result.
Dictated by coverage, Carr largely relied on his tight ends and running backs.
“There were a few plays (where) uncharacteristically he wasn’t at his best,” Gruden said. “Sometimes you have to credit (defensive coordinator) Wade Phillips; you have to credit the defense. They gave us multiple looks. They have some talented people out there. It’s just disappointing, but I think knowing how good Derek is, it gives us hope that we can get it all solved.”
Carr knows he was not perfect.
At the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, shortly following the loss, he discussed each of his interceptions.
The first was “just a bad throw” to tight end Jared Cook in a favorable one-on-one matchup, he said. The second saw him switch his intentions with a ball and ultimately execute none of the above. Carr said that he went from throwing it away to hitting a receiver on a bench route to withdrawing from the latter because he noticed a defender.
“I saw the dude underneath (the route), so I tried to pull it back with my hand, and obviously, that’s why it looked so terrible,” Carr said. “It just floated in the air and landed in the guy’s lap. It’s just one of those where you sit there and think, ‘That’s one of the dumbest plays you could ever have.’ ”
On the third, a miscommunication arose between Carr and Cook.
Carr anticipated that Cook would continue running his route. Cook did not. Touchdown, Rams.
Gruden did not cast blame at either player, instead saying that he needs to coach better so such miscues don’t arise.
“Losses with Coach Gruden feel a little bit different than I ever felt before,” Carr said late Monday evening. “Just the positive coaching, the next step, demanding what he needs from me next time and all these kinds of stuff. I just talked to him for 10 minutes, and I already feel like we are going to be better next week. …
“It’s always disappointing to lose. We don’t want to do that, especially in the first game. We got 15 more. And I think we are going to be pretty good.”