Tim DeRuyter became Fresno State’s coach after the 2011 season, and he inherited quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr had just finished his sophomore season when DeRuyter started coaching him, but something immediately stood out.
“Derek absolutely understood protections,” DeRuyter said, and a chuckle came out. “I think David, because of his experiences, made sure of it.”
The story of Derek Carr, the starting quarterback of the Oakland Raiders, can’t be told without remembering what happened with David Carr. David Carr was a better prospect than Derek. David was the No. 1 overall pick of the expansion Houston Texans in 2002. But the Texans were terrible and David never blossomed, mostly because he was sacked relentlessly behind a terrible offensive line. If you look up the record for most times sacked in a season, David Carr ranks first and third on the list.
Derek was only 10 when David was drafted — there’s a great image of Derek on stage during his big brother’s big moment — but he still knew from growing up as a Cowboys fan that what his brother was going through wasn’t normal.
“I remember watching the Cowboys and thinking, ‘Well, [Troy] Aikman never got hit that much,’” Derek Carr said. “I knew the quarterback wasn’t supposed to get hit that much. I knew that isn’t what it was supposed to look like.”
David Carr’s NFL career wasn’t for naught. He played 11 seasons. He made $40 million in NFL salary, according to Spotrac. And maybe most importantly, he had a chance to make sure his younger brother, through his lessons, could make the NFL and be better prepared for success once he was there.
“He’s my biggest fan,” Derek Carr said. “He tells people all the time, if what he went through was to help me in my career, he would do it again. That tells you what type of person he is. For him to say that, it’s so selfless. That’s awesome. I love him for it.”
Derek Carr is almost 12 years younger than David Carr, but in a way that was a benefit. David had so many years to work with his little brother. Derek said he can’t even remember a time David wasn’t taking him under his wing. Derek remembers when his brother was in high school, David would drag him along to hang out with his friends. Derek could throw a football pretty well from when he was really small, and David wanted to be his mentor.
“I don’t know many big brothers who would take their little 6-, 7-year-old brother to hang out with their friends,” Derek Carr said. “But he just knew.”
By the time Derek Carr was a junior at Fresno State, DeRuyter said he was the most mature player of that age he has been around. Carr knew a lot about the game (including protections, of course), but it was more than that.
“His brother did a terrific job grooming him,” DeRuyter said. “Not just Xs and Os but in being a leader, owning it when it’s you fault, things like that."
Learning on-the-field lessons from an 11-year NFL quarterback was invaluable, but Derek Carr barely mentions that part of his education from David.
“He was put in a situation that wasn’t ideal and didn’t end up the way he wanted, but he sits back and looks at it and says, ‘I have no regrets,’” Derek Carr said. “He didn’t point the finger at any one person or blamed any one person. When I go back and look at look at the film, he could have blamed and pointed the finger at a lot of people. But he didn’t. That said more to me about him than any touchdowns he could have thrown.”
You’d think that with all the education and ability he had, Carr would have gone before the second round of the NFL draft. DeRuyter was defensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2010-11 when current Miami Dolphins quarterback and former first-round pick Ryan Tannehill was there, and DeRuyter said he didn’t think there was “much difference at all" between the two.
The Texans, David’s old team, passed on Derek Carr to start the second round. They took UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo instead. Everyone speculated that the Texans passed on Carr because of his last name, thinking it would be tough to succeed where his brother didn’t. Picking Su-a-Filo over a potential starting quarterback was such a weird and bad decision, you had to wonder. Derek Carr said he doesn’t think David’s career in Houston had anything to do with the decision.
“I don’t think so,” Derek Carr said. “I think they’re very smart. I think it was just a football decision. They didn’t want a quarterback right then, so I don’t think it was because of that. I’ve known Mr. McNair [Texans owner Bob McNair] since I was little, and he wants to win football games. And he thought that’s the way they wanted to do it.”
The Raiders got what appears to be a steal. Derek Carr started all 16 games for them last season. He wasn’t great, but the team around him wasn’t great. He won’t say that. He’ll point to things he needs to do better. He understands his meager 5.5 yards per attempt wasn’t good enough, but he explains that opposing defenses dictated he had to play it safe a lot of times. He said after about three days off after the season ended, he was working on things he could do better, to build off a promising first year. Derek was also very good at one thing as a rookie — he got rid of the ball before he got hit, taking only 24 sacks despite 599 passing attempts.
He says his rookie season wasn’t good enough because the 3-13 Raiders didn’t win enough games. He speaks like he’s much more experienced than a second-year quarterback, and in many ways he is.
Carr controls the offense when he’s at practice. He’s at ease with the media afterward, giving earnest and funny answers as he comfortably fills the role as the new face of the Raiders’ rebuilding franchise. He jokes around with his teammates in the way any leader would, bringing everyone together. It’s clear very quickly who the quarterback of the team is.
“He gets it,” DeRuyter said.
Derek said that before last year, when he talked to his brother it was probably 90 percent football and 10 percent everything else. Now, that has flipped. About 90 percent of the conversation is about their families, inside jokes, golf clubs and everything else brothers talk about. When Derek was drafted by the Raiders, David told him that he had taught him everything he knew and Derek was prepared to play.
As Carr prepares to begin his second season as the Raiders’ quarterback, he can still call David and ask for advice. But David’s job there is mostly done. He worked with Derek from the time he was a toddler to get him to the NFL. His little brother made it.
“He was trying to get me ready,” Derek said. “Once I got to this point he said, ‘Hey, I’ve taught you everything I know, if you have a question ask, but go do it, man. You know what you’re doing.’ “
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