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Derek Carr, Josh McDaniels quickly bond over love of football

Updated June 7, 2022 - 5:14 pm

The moment lasted all of three seconds.

But in the time it took Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to correct himself in how he referred to the team’s new playbook not only encompassed the changes but also how two worlds have collided in a way nobody could have anticipated.

Carr was sharing observations Tuesday after the first day of a mandatory three-day minicamp about the working relationship he is forging with new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, the architect of so many great offenses with the New England Patriots and considered one of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds.

“Their system is …,” Carr began before catching himself.

It dawned on him that he wasn’t talking about the Patriots’ offense but the Raiders’.

“Our system is different than anything I’ve been in before,” Carr then said. “But once you’ve been in it, I see why it was so successful.”

Not that anyone could have predicted the pairing of McDaniels and Carr and everything else that has unfolded in the past 12 months. This time last year, Carr was immersed so deeply in coach Jon Gruden’s offense he could practically recite the playbook backward. After four straight years operating in the same system, Carr had his master’s degree and was aiming for his Ph.D.

Or so everyone thought.

Gruden resigned five games into last season after an email scandal created an NFL earthquake that rippled all the way from Las Vegas to New York. The dark cloud that engulfed the Raiders in the next few months included the deadly drunken driving accident caused by wide receiver Henry Ruggs, the off-field gun incident of cornerback Damon Arnette and ultimately the dismissal of general manager Mike Mayock.

But somehow, Carr and the Raiders held things together and won 10 games to punch their first ticket to the playoffs since 2017. The resolve caught the attention of McDaniels, a longtime Patriots assistant who was ready to pursue another head coaching opportunity after spending the past 12 years learning from his mistakes during an ill-fated run with the Denver Broncos.

The result is the unlikely matching of a coach hoping to seize a second chance and a quarterback desperate to push the only franchise he’s known to the next level. After spending the first few months of their partnership getting to know each other, Carr and McDaniels are now tapping into their mutual interest and love of football.

In that way, it’s almost the perfect pairing.

“It’s exciting to be coached by him,” Carr said. “He’s very demanding, but he’s also very fun to be around.”

The football nerd in Carr made him a low-key stalker of McDaniels and the Patriots over the years, and he would often catch himself watching their games and studying their schemes.

“I was always very intrigued by the things they would do, schematically,” Carr said.

That was evident in a recent film session when McDaniels showed footage of a Patriots game and Carr nodded his head knowingly.

“I remember this play,” said Carr, who relayed to McDaniels the exact year and defensive coordinator in question.

McDaniels laughed it off, but the exchange was telling. Yes, McDaniels is teaching a new offense to a new quarterback. But in Carr, he’s not only dealing with an established veteran but also a student of the game who has had to learn four new schemes in the past nine years.

“You don’t have to say it five times for him to get it,” McDaniels said. “There’s a natural way he learns that it’s pretty easy for a coach.”

The result is an expedited learning process that should benefit the offense.

“We can hit the ground running … and move on faster to other things,” Carr said.

Only this time, rather than ushering in a new regime with the prerequisite tearing down of the roster to mark another rebuild, this new system is being taught to a high-level offense featuring veterans Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs, Kolton Miller and, of course, Carr.

“Usually when you have a bunch of young guys, the train has to slow down,” Carr said. “Josh said that we’re going full steam ahead, and he trusts that, with a veteran group of guys with a lot of football behind them, they can pick it up and run with it.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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