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Graney: End of an era arrives with benching of Derek Carr

Know this: It’s not about the opportunity to evaluate a younger quarterback. Not in the least.

Nine years later, the Derek Carr Era with the Raiders is over.

There aren’t many lines to read between when it comes to Carr being benched for backup Jarrett Stidham for the final two games against the 49ers and Chiefs.

It’s about Carr’s contract and performance. And not in that order.

Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said there was no finality to the decision, and yet you should assume the odds of Carr ever again wearing the Silver and Black probably equal those of Stidham starting next season’s opener.

Or, yes, even longer

“Derek has played a lot of football,” McDaniels said.

Just not very well lately.

Move makes sense

This was an easy choice. The only one that makes sense for the Raiders. They couldn’t risk — hello, Jimmy Garoppolo with the 49ers — Carr being seriously injured and his trade value taking a major hit. There will be a market for him. A potentially robust one.

Had he played the final two games and gotten hurt to the point he couldn’t pass a physical, his 2023 salary of $33 million and $7.5 million of his 2024 contract would have been guaranteed.

Way too big a risk.

It’s not as if Carr didn’t play himself (poorly) into this spot. He hasn’t been good this season and particularly in the past month, when it was thought he would be auditioning for his future with the team.

He ranks 26th in passer rating in the NFL and has thrown nine interceptions in the past five games while leading the league with 14. Such numbers don’t warrant a starting job.

“He’s the first one to stand up …” McDaniels said. “He’s been accountable all year, and I know he’ll continue to do that … I don’t think anybody feels like we’ve done enough … I don’t think anybody is really happy with what we’ve done.”

So, in this moment, perhaps it’s best to look back.

In nine years, Carr, 31, became the organization’s most prolific passer by a few country miles, its all-time leader in yards and touchdowns and completion rate and fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.

Not bad for a player who was drafted in the second round in 2014 and had missed just three games — all because of injury — in his NFL career. He was durable and productive for more seasons than not.

Which is more impressive when you consider Carr played for four full-time head coaches with the Raiders, two interim head coaches and countless play-callers.

Saddled also with playing on a team that annually struggled defensively, a lack of wins and playoff appearances can hardly be placed solely at Carr’s feet.

Moving forward

Carr wasn’t, as McDaniels intimated, understanding of the decision. No true competitor would be. Carr wasn’t seen at the practice facility Wednesday, and there were reports he’s taking a break from the team to avoid what would be obvious distractions. You would hope he would make a statement of some sort. He was always a stand-up player when it came to such things.

So the face of a franchise is gone, and the Raiders move forward at 6-9 and close to being eliminated from playoff talk. This isn’t about Jarrett Stidham. Nine years later, this is about the end of an era.

“There is a lot of evaluating that’s going to take place once this season is over in terms of how you make progress, what makes the most sense for everybody and how we move forward,” McDaniels said. “We knew that was going to be the case. Obviously, we were hoping it would be in a different scenario that we currently are in. But how we do going forward, we’ll see.”

Things were made pretty clear Wednesday.

It will be without Derek Carr.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. 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.

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