Updated May 23, 2019 - 9:50 am
Inever gave much thought to the mentor-protege relationship — other than the time George Costanza needed to study up on risk management — but now understand how it might influence Derek Carr’s supreme confidence that he will remain the Raiders starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.
At least until the team arrives to its new Las Vegas home in 2020 and perhaps long after.
“We’re not just planning for this year,” Carr told reporters Monday as the Raiders opened OTAs in Oakland. “I’m honestly going to be here a long time, so I hope that’s okay with you guys. You have to get used to me.”
Think about it: Jon Gruden as coach is the college professor who works long days, on weekends, during holidays, assured his is the only way of running things and determined those learning under him will do so in a precise, trusting manner.
It’s his way or Summerlin Parkway.
It’s also why the assumption that Gruden would spend the offseason looking to replace Carr — most likely via the draft — wasn’t as practical a notion as portrayed.
The Raiders weren’t any good last season, a 4-12 team that could neither protect its quarterback nor rush those of their opponents. Yet while Carr certainly played a part in the team’s last-place AFC West finish, he hardly owned a lion’s share of accountability.
But it’s more than that. Gruden to his quarterbacks makes the most exacting of upper-level management taskmasters appear tranquil. So why after an entire season of teaching and grooming and challenging and likely bemoaning Carr in order to create those habits Gruden desires most would the coach want to start all over with a rookie?
If he believes at all in Carr’s ability to one day lead the Raiders to a championship — and it’s fairly obvious he does at some level — why wouldn’t Gruden continue down this path until proven consistently futile?
If you’re sculpting what you think the ideal quarterback, you usually don’t stop the process after pouring a cast, because even Matisse chiseled off some mold before deciding what was and wasn’t a work of art.
“I’m not going to critique Derek Carr in the media,” Gruden said. “I think he’s pretty well respected. He’s one of the best arm talents in football. I think he’s a lot more athletic than people think.
“I think if we can get some continuity in this building with the system and with the supporting cast and we can improve the defense, I think he can be one of the best in football. I’m going to hold him to that standard, and I think that’s what he wants.”
Well, there’s a few not-so-hidden messages.
First, he believes Carr can be much better than the guy who, while during Gruden’s first season back on the sidelines offered career-best numbers in completion percentage and yards, also threw for the fewest touchdowns (19) in any of his five professional seasons and was sacked more times (51) than ever.
Gruden also thinks many of the offseason moves on offense will help expedite Carr’s trajectory, which is another way of saying there are wide receivers who can now actually get open beyond 10 yards.
I get it. You hold the No. 4 overall pick in a draft and there are enticing quarterback names like Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins among those eligible to be selected. So you take a look-see and work them out, all in the name of due diligence.
But when the coin’s other side is a guy who signed a five-year, $125 million extension in 2017 and has shown when healthy capable at playing at a playoff level, you keep mixing those buckets of plaster.
Even if Carr did send out tweets suggesting Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith of ESPN meet him in a UFC octagon.
“Honestly, (the speculation) got annoying after a while,” Carr said. “I’m like, ‘Really, they don’t have nothing else to talk about?’ And I didn’t help the situation, trying to challenge people to fights. To be honest with you, I shouldn’t have said nothing.
“When I watched the draft, there was like negative 47 percent chance they would draft (a quarterback) in my mind. It wasn’t going to happen. They pretty much said that every time it came up, if it came up.”
It shouldn’t have.
Carr needs to be a lot better, but beginning a new sculpture from scratch right now was never the answer.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.