Updated August 5, 2020 - 6:59 am
Derek Carr the person seems fairly uncomplicated. Husband. Father. Profoundly devoted to his faith. But his reputation as an NFL quarterback is more complex. He’s sort of an enigma in shoulder pads.
Numbers suggest Carr exists among a tier of players just behind those considered stars in the league at his position. Compare strictly his stats on a board of blind resumes and he more than holds his own among most.
But opinions about the Las Vegas Raiders leader vary like fashion trends. Have for a while now. And those who hold a skeptical view of Carr’s overall significance to the team’s pursuit of a championship only intensified in the offseason. All it took was the signing of former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“Me and Marcus get along great,” Carr said. “We always have. I’ll tell you one thing, in our quarterback group you have to compete and that’s what I do. Anyone that’s around me, all I’m going to do is compete.
“You can go through the list about who’s started games and who’s been in our quarterback room. It happens all the time, but when you go 7-9, people like to make up stuff.”
Mariota hasn’t been with the Raiders long enough for much to be fabricated by anyone, but there are actual facts when evaluating the situation.
The Titans moved on from him after five seasons, benching Mariota in Week 7 last year in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Whenever afforded his next opportunity, Mariota has to prove he should again be an NFL starter. He’s no sure thing, even as the league’s highest-paid backup.
One thing matters
Carr just needs to prove he can win.
Isn’t that what this is all about?
Blind resume from 2019: a career-high 4,054 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, eight interceptions, a 7.9-yard per completion average and the league’s second-highest completion percentage (70.4) next to Drew Brees. Impressive stuff.
But the Raiders, as Carr stated, finished 7-9.
They’re also 39-55 with him as a starter since 2014 — the second-most losses for a quarterback over his first six seasons.
It’s the position, man. You can’t escape scrutiny. You shouldn’t want to. It’s fair. It’s unfair. Nobody cares. Only one thing matters and the Raiders haven’t done enough of it in a long, long time.
They have made the playoffs once in 17 years, going 12-3 under Carr in 2016 before he was injured. So to suggest a quarterback about to start his seventh season as a starter and with a dead cap hit of just $2.5 million in 2021 isn’t under intense pressure to deliver wins is foolish.
The talent around Carr is better this season. More explosive. There is more depth. The Raiders are also sure to improve their red-zone efficiency because, well, how couldn’t they given the eyesore that was such a critical component in 2019?
It’s one area Carr admits he must be better at — finishing drives. His coaches also want him working on another skill.
“Want to see him create and I think if you said that about Derek’s career, can he be more creative?” said offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “When a play breaks down, can you get out and create and be the play after the play call? ‘Hey, this play broke down, and now you’ve got to escape and get outside the pocket and create something for us or push forward and run.’
“That’s been an emphasis. (Carr) sees it, he’s athletic enough that he can create with his legs, so we are just working on him to create more outside the pocket.”
Doesn’t care at all?
Players across the league are opting out of the season daily due to COVID-19. Carr never considered it, focused instead on what he believes could be the Raiders taking a prohibitive step forward under his guidance.
“I have a lot to prove to myself,” Carr said. “I have a lot to prove to my organization. I am going to be completely honest with you, I’m tired of being disrespected, so there was no question I was going to play this year.
“I played way better last year than I did in 2016, yet all we do is talk about that. ‘We won 12 games, so yay, everyone’s excited.’ I’m done with all that stuff. So, you can say good stuff. You can say bad stuff. I think you can sense in the last year or so, I just don’t care anymore. You can say whatever you want.”
It’s an interesting dichotomy, for sure. Tired of being disrespected and yet not caring about how others think …
An enigma in shoulder pads.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.