Time for Raiders’ $125M QB Derek Carr to pull team out of tailspin

Updated October 18, 2017 - 10:20 pm

It is, simply, an agreement between two or more parties as to what each will do for the other.

The Raiders in the offseason agreed to offer Derek Carr a five-year contract extension worth $125 million.

He agreed to sign it because, well, he has a brain.

In turn, the assumption was he would continue to perform at a level equivalent to the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

So far, it hasn’t been that great a bargain for the ones writing those big checks.

To place the entirety of blame on Carr and his injured back for why the team’s offense has resembled the blandness of a station wagon over the high-powered Bugatti most predicted for this season wouldn’t fairly summarize all the issues that have contributed to four straight losses.

But heavy is the head that wears the most important of helmets, and it’s on Carr more than anyone to now guide the Raiders out of a current funk that lessens the chance of a playoff berth with each passing loss.

Not that the passing part has been anything to celebrate.

Someone has to step forward and stop the bleeding.

You figure Carr owns the largest tourniquet.

Whether he uses it enough through his play against visiting Kansas City on Thursday night could mean the difference between the Raiders climbing back into a competitive nature this season or continuing a long and dismal reality of merely playing out the schedule.

This isn’t as much an AFC showdown between the first-place Chiefs and a last-place Raiders team hoping to discover some sort of divisional relevance as it is unmitigated survival mode for the hosts.

It’s as close to a must win in Week 7 as the NFL knows.

“We definitely want more,” Carr said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re going to work, and we’re going to get more. We are because we have a good group. I think we all believe that. I think we all have seen it. It’s not like we’re going out there trying not to make it happen.

“As cliché as we can get, you have to go 1-0 this week. (Kansas City) is a division game, which really counts for two. You want to go out there and beat one of the best teams in football. We have them coming to our place on a short week. So all the challenges are there. Everything is pushing our back against the wall, but one thing I know is we’re going to fight.”

The Raiders are 2-4. Since the 1990 season, just more than 8.5 percent of teams with that start to a season made the playoffs.

It’s not impossible, but it’s hardly a suggested path to postseason life.

Carr missed one game with three fractured transverse processes in his back after taking a knee to the area against the Broncos, but even before he went down and then returned for a loss to the Chargers on Sunday, he and the offense struggled mightily making their way.

There is a new coordinator (Todd Downing) this season, a new running back (Marshawn Lynch), an offensive line that hasn’t played near its lofty reputation and leading wide receivers (Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper) still searching for those deep-ball opportunities so often forecast throughout the summer and training camp.

It’s an offense that lacks the explosion and unpredictability found under former coordinator Bill Musgrave, who seemed to know the ideal snaps on which to expose mismatches, particularly downfield.

Now, Carr is offering games as he did Sunday, when 70 percent of his passes went for 5 yards or fewer. He only attempted three passes of 15 yards or more and has completed just seven such attempts this season.

Never before during his four-year career have Carr’s numbers lacked such a downfield presence, or at least attempts at creating one.

“We definitely want more (big plays),” Carr said. “Now, does that mean we’re going to do anything differently or try to force things? Absolutely not. That’s where you get in trouble. That’s something that I’ve learned in my career. You can’t force it. You just have to work hard and let it happen.

“(Defenses) are definitely trying to take them away. Those kinds of things can be frustrating. That’s kind of something that we’re learning now as we’re seeing teams do that. We’re figuring out ways, ‘Hey man, how can we still be able to do that and create explosive plays?’ ”

They need to block better and run the ball better and catch it a whole lot better. They need to call plays better.

But it all begins with Carr, and while he has won his share embracing a quick spread passing scheme, he needs to find more ways to open up things.

Heavy is the helmet, is right.

It’s time for Carr to prove himself more of a bargain.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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