After a slow start last season, Derek Carr was left for dead.
Never mind that Carr was in his first few weeks learning coach Jon Gruden’s system. He struggled to start the 2018 season and that was that. He was going to be cut or traded. We wondered who would be the Oakland Raiders’ new quarterback as they moved to Las Vegas in 2020. There was a severe overreaction to Carr and Gruden arguing on the sideline. Carr’s Raiders obituary was written.
Sometimes a reputation gets set, and never gets adjusted even if it’s justified. What’s your opinion of Carr now? It probably doesn’t match his production, which has been very good. Carr continues his strong season as the Raiders face the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
If you checked out on the Carr story early last season, you might be surprised at what you see.
Derek Carr having a fantastic season
The Raiders were bad last season and everyone buried Carr. Then nobody noticed when he played well, working with a crew of pass catchers that had Jared Cook and not much else. And it’s not like Cook is a Rob Gronkowski clone.
Over a 10-game stretch last season, Carr had 12 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 99.6 passer rating. Those aren’t MVP numbers, but it’s not bad when your best wide receiver is 33-year-old Jordy Nelson. Nelson retired after the season.
This season Carr was supposed to have Antonio Brown as his top receiver. As we know, that didn’t work out. Carr has played well anyway. He has a 71.2 completion percentage, 1,984 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 105.1 passer rating. If you don’t love traditional stats, advanced stats like Carr even more.
Carr’s grade at Pro Football Focus is second among the 30 quarterbacks with 200 attempts. That’s right, No. 2. Only Russell Wilson has been better. Carr’s passing grade is better than guys like Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson ... anyone but Wilson, who probably would win MVP if the vote happened today. Carr’s 111.9 rating on deep passes is seventh in the NFL, via PFF, and that goes against the narrative that Carr can’t throw deep. He has a 109.6 rating when under pressure. Carr has the best adjusted completion percentage among quarterbacks with 200 attempts, a PFF stat that doesn’t count dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes in which the QB was hit.
We can probably stop wondering who the Raiders’ quarterback will be when they move to Las Vegas.
Raiders have been a surprise
It’s not coincidental that Carr has been better than expected and so have the Raiders. Oakland is 4-4, right in the middle of the wild-card race in a soft AFC and only a game-and-a-half behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
It’s more impressive when you factor in the Brown fiasco. The Raiders traded for a Hall of Fame talent at receiver, then cut him a week before the season started. They planned on him being the centerpiece of their offense all offseason. Then that changed right before the season started. It didn’t matter. Guys like Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller have emerged. Carr’s strong play has played a part in that too.
Through the first half of this season, the Raiders have been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises. So has Carr. The Raiders had a chance to pick a quarterback early in this year’s draft. Kyler Murray was the only quarterback off the board when the Raiders were on the clock. They passed, showing faith in Carr.
That seems like a pretty smart move right now, even if few have noticed.
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