ALAMEDA — In the sullen aftermath of the Raiders’ second blowout loss in a row on Sunday in Kansas City, head coach Jon Gruden was asked his assessment of quarterback Derek Carr, who had struggled with two critical interceptions and failed to elicit an efficient performance from the Raiders’ offense.
For Carr, it was a continuation of his well-chronicled issues playing in cold weather. His record when the temperature drops below 50 degrees is now 2-10, 0-5 when it dips below 40 degrees.
It’s left Carr’s career record through 90 starts at 38-52.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Gruden maintained. “He’s got a chance to be great.”
Only Gruden knows if he really believes that about Carr, who is 28 and in his sixth season in the NFL. But his comment raises some important questions.
If great truly is Carr’s ceiling, why hasn’t he reached it yet?
Also, as for the Raiders, can they continue to wait on Carr to realize his potential? Or is it time to cut ties and invest in a quarterback of the future?
Let’s look at the question from both sides.
Carr deserves more time
It can be argued that the Raiders have let Carr down more than the other way around.
He was an MVP candidate in 2016 while playing behind a stout offensive line and alongside a wide receiver unit that featured a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. A solid run game produced 1,922 yards.
Prior to suffering a season-ending leg injury in week 16, Carr had thrown for 3,937 yards while completing 63.8 percent of his passes, with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The supporting casts Carr has played with since then have not been as good, and over the last two seasons the foundation has been torn down in a massive rebuild.
Carr’s play is a reflection of the lesser talent around him. He’s failed to reach 28 touchdowns since 2016, and he’s thrown double-digit interceptions twice. He’s on pace for another double-digit interception season this year.
Nevertheless, Carr’s quarterback rating under Gruden is above 90, and his completion percentage was 68.9 percent last year and 70.6 percent this year. And that is without a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
Remember, the plan this season was to complement Carr with explosive wide receiver Antonio Brown, dependable No. 2 wide receiver Tyrell Williams, dynamic young running back Josh Jacobs and a rebuilt offensive line. But Brown blew that plan up in training camp.
We can only wonder how good Carr would have performed with that supporting cast intact. That is true now more than ever with the emergence of Darren Waller as one of the best tight ends in the NFL and Hunter Renfrow as a valuable slot receiver.
The Raiders have five draft picks within the first 90 selections next April and are projected to have more than $70 million in salary cap space. They have the resources to add the necessary player or two that the offense is lacking and give a talented quarterback like Carr the necessary help to finally reach his potential.
It’s time to move on
The argument that the Raiders would be wasting valuable years by cutting ties with Carr and investing in a young quarterback has been dispelled recently by the rapid success of young quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff.
All three have either led their teams to division titles or the playoffs within their first or second seasons. Goff and the Los Angeles Rams went to the Super Bowl last year and Mahomes led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game. Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to a playoff berth in his rookie year and is on target to win the AFC North this season.
There is growing evidence that good, young quarterbacks can offer playoff-caliber play almost immediately when put in the right situation. And the Raiders, with their improving roster and vast draft and salary resources, are well-positioned to add a young quarterback and still flourish.
Carr doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Raiders’ struggles. But his best might not be good enough to lift them beyond just a marginal playoff contender. It can’t be ignored that he performs his worst in cold weather — when games matter most.
As they segue to their new home in Las Vegas, now is the right time for the Raiders to release Carr — which would create $15 million in cap space — and draft their quarterback of the future.
So what should the Raiders do?
As the Raiders plot their first offseason in Las Vegas, they need to keep an open mind about Carr and all the various options they can pursue.
That means digging deep into the available quarterback prospects with a willingness to fall in love with one or two of them enough to move on from Carr and invest the necessary resources into securing their desired target.
Let the results of the deep dive into quarterbacks like LSU’s Joe Burrow, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Utah State’s Jordan Love, among others, be the compass. If they believe they’ve found a quarterback with a ceiling that surpasses Carr’s, it’s time to explore moving up in the draft to secure him.
And moving on from Carr.