After years of dysfunction, largely thanks to disastrous quarterback play, the Raiders finally have their franchise quarterback. Derek Carr was worth the wait.
Fans of the Oakland Raiders have had to live through some of the most dysfunctional quarterback play the NFL has ever seen. The rotating carousel of inept signal-callers since the 2002 season ended was embarrassing, frustrating, comical, and an infinite number of other adjectives — none of them positive.
Rick Mirer. Marques Tuiasosopo. Kerry Collins. Andrew Walter. Aaron Brooks. Josh McCown. Daunte Culpepper. JaMarcus Russell. Bruce Gradkowski. Charlie Frye. Jason Campbell. Kyle Boller. Carson Palmer. Terrelle Pryor. Matt McGloin. Matt Flynn.
That list of names is every quarterback who has started at least one game for the Oakland Raiders since the beginning of the 2003 season, Rich Gannon excluded.
The aforementioned quarterbacks were at the helm of an 11-year span in which the Raiders won just 53, an average of 4.8 per season. Over this period, the Raiders had quite the mix of starting quarterbacks.
Oakland fielded their fair share of washed up QBs at the end of their careers — Mirer, Collins, and Culpepper.
They had castaways/journeymen such as Brooks, McCown, Gradkowski, Frye and Boller.
Most of the QBs were just straight up awful — Walter and Flynn, in particular.
There was a retired QB who was acquired for multiple high draft picks and one quarterback with everyone’s favorite last name — Tuiasosopo.
Jason Campbell actually wasn’t bad — until he got hurt — which led to the previously mentioned trade. Then there was Pryor and McGloin, two recent starters.
And the Raiders of course had that one colossal bust — you know who.
Needless to say, it’s been quite the wait for Raider Nation to be able to cheer for a franchise quarterback. 16 QBs have tried and failed to carry Rich Gannon’s torch, which is depressing to say out loud.
Quarterback #17 is Derek Carr. And he was worth the wait.
When Reggie McKenzie drafted Carr in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the pick was met with mostly praise, but also with some reservation. The former Fresno State product was seen as a value pick at that spot — a player with a high ceiling that needed plenty of development to get there.
“Plenty of development”, meaning Carr was far from a sure thing. His footwork was a disaster, he operated in a spread offense, his low average yards-per-attempt stat was concerning, as was his ability to handle pressure.
There was also one other concern that loomed large — something that few would admit to. And that was his last name. After being the #1 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, David Carr would go on to bust for the Houston Texans.
Those same Texans had an opportunity to draft Derek, and whether they admit it or not, they passed on the younger Carr brother because there was no way they could sell the pick to their fanbase, who were just as desperate as Raiders fans for a franchise quarterback.
Thank you, Houston.
Because now, in his third season, Carr is at the top of the NFL’s MVP discussion. He has solidified himself as a franchise quarterback and the game’s best signal-caller 25 or younger.
There are plenty of other statements out there similar to this one. Before the draft, Derek Carr always had Raiders personnel around him, at every workout and at every drill.
So when Carr was available with the 36th pick, Reggie was quite confident he found the new leader of the franchise. Much of Raider Nation was excited, but like with anything, there were plenty who had their doubts.
Then the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks happened.
Expected to be the backup to Matt Schaub, Carr forced Oakland’s hand, playing so well in the preseason that they had to start him. They didn’t have a choice, as the #StartTheCarr movement gained immediate traction.
Carr started Week 1 of his rookie season, and he’s started every game since.
And even though the Raiders got off to an 0-10 start in his rookie season, Carr showed enough talent, poise and command of the offense that Raider Nation maintained its optimism that he would be our savior. Except for the random group of folks who to this day, think Matt McGloin is that guy.
But I digress.
Carr’s improvement from his final season at Fresno State to the end of his rookie season in Oakland was notable. He cleaned up his footwork, he was adjusting to running a pro offense, and all in all, and he looked the part of a quality NFL quarterback.
Those improvements continued in Carr’s second season — his accuracy improved, his ability to handle pressure was much better, and he threw for 32 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. Carr also emerged as a leader.
And now in year three, Carr has taken another huge leap in his progression. He’s going to improve statistically all across the board, is the bonafide leader of the franchise, and he’s made strides in the red zone, the fourth quarter, and is now adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage.
At this point, he is a full-fledged franchise quarterback and a legitimate MVP candidate. And at just 25 years old, it’s scary (for opposing defenses) to realize that he is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of.
Not to mention that the Derek Carr off the field is just as impressive as the Derek Carr on the field.
Carr is truly a rare combination of humble and passionate, and he is a true student of the game. Having a big brother in the NFL allowed him to break down film since before he was a teenager, giving him an extremely high-level understanding of the game.
So after watching plenty of on the field disasters at the quarterback position, and some of them who were also off the field nightmares, it’s a blessing to be able to root for a guy like Derek Carr.