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Whatever the motivation, Derek Carr playing at elite level for Raiders

I remember the photo. It was fairly massive. Tom Brady was shown dropping back for a pass while wearing a Raiders uniform. He was smiling. Like the way you might see a child on Christmas morning.

Heck, I wrote the column about Brady possibly signing with Las Vegas that accompanied such a pointed depiction. It all caught Derek Carr’s eye.

“The first day I moved here, Tom Brady was on the front page of the newspaper,” Carr said. “It just adds fuel to the fire.”

My suggestion to the Raiders quarterback: Keep finding ways to toss more tinder and kindling into those open spaces between logs. It’s working.

If this is one reason for how Carr has performed over two games this season — stoking an internal flame based on the opinions of others — then at no point should he throw water on such incentive. Ride the blaze, man.

The player who has completed 50-of-68 passes for 521 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions over a 2-0 start is more in control of the Las Vegas offense than a judge over his courtroom. Carr is doing most everything right. He has a NFL-best 141.4 passer rating on third down through two weeks. Chains. Moving.

“This guy’s a great quarterback and we’re surrounding him with better players,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “When our defense starts playing to their potential, he could be even better. He does so much with the ball and without the ball and behind the scenes that Raider fans should be proud of him. I know I am.”

Tom Brady would fit with the Las Vegas Raiders. (Wes Rand)
Tom Brady would fit with the Las Vegas Raiders. (Wes Rand)

Early Year 3 success

This is the third season of a Carr-Gruden tandem. A critical storyline to 2020. Yet while the sample size is 120 minutes old this year, the comfort between coach and quarterback is obvious. That’s one reason for Carr’s impressive start.

This absolutely could be another …

Carr entered a seventh season as the team’s starter tired of being disrespected. His words. He was done with folks (read: media), whether they were saying good stuff or bad stuff. His words. He didn’t care about those offering skeptical views in regard to his play or future with the organization.

Of course he cares. He should. He’s not some movie character made of tin in search of a heart. Humans are the most self-conscious species on earth. We all care to some degree. In fact, those in sports who always talk about disregarding outside noise are usually the ones listening the closest and calling up Twitter immediately after games.

I understand an athlete’s desire not to admit what others write or say bothers them to any significant level. The whole macho idea about showing mental toughness and all. I say welcome such critique. Hope for more of it. Hang a bunch of pictures of those you dislike most for their criticism and have a nightly darts competition with Gruden.

Just make sure he wears a mask.

Whatever he is relying on for motivation, Carr needs to double down like he’s showing a soft 16 and the dealer a lower card. I’m sure it’s a combination of factors. An insatiable hunger to win at a high level for the team that drafted and believed in him. Those disbelieving sorts he claims not to care about.

Every athlete at the highest level of sports is inspired by some specific component, whether perceived in a positive or negative manner. The key is to use such stimulus to one’s benefit. That’s happening for Carr right now and, in turn, the Raiders are benefiting greatly.

About that photo …

As for that front-page the mural of Brady, you were talking at the time about the greatest quarterback in history deciding if he might leave the Patriots for a non-Belichick pasture. The idea that Gruden and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock hadn’t at any level discussed being a landing spot is silly. Several teams did.

Obviously, nothing came of it in Las Vegas.

Obviously, the Raiders are quite happy with their situation after wins against the Panther and Saints.

“I’ll let everyone else talk about the statement,” Carr said when asked about the importance of beating New Orleans 34-24 on Monday. “I’m tired of talking and I think people can hear it in my voice sometimes. It’s nice to go out and be 2-0 … But like I told the guys after the game, the job is not done. Be all excited and feel good about ourselves because people are saying nice things now. Going to the Patriots (on Sunday), we can’t lose.”

His voice does tell the story. Has since training camp began.

And if it means continuing to play as he has, the Raiders want nothing else.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached 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 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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