Derek Carr made quite the first impression on Jon Gruden


Derek Carr made quite the first impression on Jon Gruden

Jon Gruden loves quarterback Derek Carr. Just ask him.

Well, that might be tough before he’s announced, as expected, as the next Raiders head coach.

So we'll have ask Gruden circa 2016. Or Gruden circa 2014, before Carr entered the NFL Draft. Don’t sweat not having a time machine. Gruden’s been on ESPN nearly a decade now, where most everything’s archived.

One problem: Gruden said nice things about most everybody, especially quarterbacks, as a broadcaster. Will he feel the same after working with him each day? We don't know that yet. 

We do know that Carr made a solid first impression. The second will be far more important, as the Gruden-Carr dynamic will be critical to Raiders fortunes in coming years.

Let’s go back, for a second, to the Gruden QB Camp segment with Carr. Gruden said he’d pick Derek over his older brother David, who was 2002’s No. 1 overall pick.

“I appreciate that,” Derek said. “Let’s go win some championships, now.”

That’ll be the immediate goal when Gruden comes aboard. Maximizing Carr’s potential will go a long way toward that end, and will involve an intense relationship between quarterback and new head coach. Expect some blunt, yet constructive criticism on a regular basis. We'll see how Carr handles that. 

Carr handled his first interaction with Gruden well. YouTube shows the TV segment from Gruden's QB Camp, but there was more to that event than what you saw. 

“I can remember him throwing the ball like it was yesterday,” Gruden said in a conference call advancing a 2016 game between the Raiders and Texans in Mexico City. “We have two cameras set up 20 yards downfield on each hash mark, and we threw some seam passes toward them. Most of the guys hit the screen, a couple would hit the target. Derek Carr hit the bull’s eye both times and broke my cameras. He put on a show for the NFL players.”

Then Gruden said something unprompted in that conference call.

“What hasn’t been said about Carr today is about his intangibles,” Gruden said. “He’s such an upbeat kid. He has so much passion and energy and leadership. He is fun to be around. He’s a superstar.”

That round of praise came in the midst of an excellent 2016 campaign where Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate.

“To put it honestly, this guy has a cannon. He’s got a gun,” Gruden said. “He can throw it tight windows with very little movement. He has a quick release and very little lower body movement. He has an arsenal of receivers. Al Davis would be very proud of Derek Carr.”

Gruden should know. He worked for Al Davis as Raiders head coach from 1998-2001. He’ll soon work for Al’s son Mark, who took control when Al Davis died in 2011. The Raiders could announce Gruden’s second stint with the Raiders within the coming days.

Mark Davis really wanted Gruden back, and will pay handsomely for his services. Carr may well have been another attraction to return to the Raiders, among several factors. It’s hard to imagine Gruden coming to a place with a quarterback he didn’t like when winning right away was a requisite. The Raiders must keep butts in Oakland Coliseum seats and start building toward a big move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Gruden has work ahead getting Carr right after a disappointing 2017 season where he regressed in several key metrics. Carr certainly has arm talent, and the work ethic and drive to absorb Gruden’s offense. Talk of Carr being unable to handle Gruden’s often-terse coaching style seems like a stretch -- Carr doesn’t mind four-letter words, even though he prefers not to say them -- but the signal caller must prove he can handle the intensity and criticism on a daily basis from a coach notoriously hard on quarterbacks. 

Charles Woodson played for Gruden and with Carr for multiple seasons. He believes Gruden can help Carr get back on track.

“I know Jon Gruden loves the quarterback position,” Woodson said last week on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown. “I believe that he would have a strong interest in working with Derek Carr and getting Derek Carr to the next level. I believe he could help him out tremendously and help him become the Hall-of-Fame-type quarterback that young kid can be.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'


Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”

Raiders QB Derek Carr named to third straight Pro Bowl


Raiders QB Derek Carr named to third straight Pro Bowl

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is headed to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. He became eligible once New England qualified for the Super Bowl and Tom Brady was out of the running for next week’s NFL all-star game in Orlando.

Carr was the next alternate up, and accepted the invitation to represent the Silver and Black. Khalil Mack, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn were named to the original roster, though Penn has bowed out with injury.

Carr will join his teammates in Florida for game-week festivities, followed by the inter-conference clash on Sunday at noon at Camping World Stadium. The game can be seen on ABC.

He joins Rich Gannon and Ken Stabler as Raiders quarterbacks with at least three Pro Bowl selections. Carr had a down year relative to his previous two, but still posted standout numbers. He had 3,496 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an 86.4 passer rating.

The Raiders finished a disappointing 6-10, and head coach Jack Del Rio was fired in favor of Jon Gruden.

“It was not the year we wanted, but to still be recognized by you, Raider Nation and fans everywhere, and the players and coaches you go against is an extremely high honor I will always be thankful for!” Carr wrote in a note posted on Twitter. “Although I am extremely blessed to be thought of in such a way by my peers, I understand there is more work to do. There is more to achieve and more to accomplish and I will now ret until we get there, Raider Nation!”