ALAMEDA – The Raiders started 0-10 and finished 3-13 in Derek Carr’s rookie year. Near that season’s merciful end, but a handful of local reporters attended his postgame press conferences.
There was little interest in that 2014 squad for obvious reasons, especially after Dennis Allen was fired and the Raiders played out a long string of losses. There was some interest in rookie starters Carr and Khalil Mack, but nothing like there is today.
The Raiders are 10-2. Carr is an MVP candidate. The Silver and Black might be the most entertaining team in football, with their penchant for drama and epic comebacks.
Carr used to play for a thin crowd. Now it’s a packed house. That was the case after Sunday’s 38-24 comeback win over Buffalo.
Now this isn’t Dallas or New York. The body count isn’t quite that high, but interest in this team and its quarterback has certainly spiked.
“It’s an exciting time in Oakland, for our fans. It’s really exciting,” Carr said on Sunday night. “Look how many people are in here now. I remember my rookie year, it was like ‘eh.’”
“This is definitely a fun time. We’ve come a long way as everyone here knows and has been with us. We’ve come a long way, we’re enjoying it.”
Wins draw attention in the nation’s most popular sport, and Carr is getting plenty of it as his legend grows.
Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of the next big thing. Carr’s on the ESPN the Magazine cover. He’s been featured on national halftime shows and syndicated radio programs. Many outlets are begging Raiders public relations to let them watch film with Carr and coordinator Bill Musgrave, to get inside the mind of one cerebral quarterback.
The spotlight will be hot all week, heading into highly anticipated Thursday night game against the rival Kansas City Chiefs for control of the AFC West.
Carr’s natural inclination is to accommodate, but the Raiders would like to insulate him some as the attention mounts.
“When the games get bigger, there are more people around,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You’ve got to protect your time. You’ve got to protect your preparation time. You have to protect the time you get with your family.
“I just think he’s mature. He’s a young player. He’s maturing and that’s probably the thing that I’m most pleased with. Obviously, the productivity is awesome, but the way he has conducted himself, the maturity, the handling it, continuing to heap praise on his teammates, to make it more about us, not about anything he’s doing individually. It’s more about us as a team. I think that’s really healthy for us.”
Carr keeps the focus on others whenever possible and shrugs off MVP talk at every turn.
It’s not just a rise in coverage. Ticket requests go up, as do outside demands on time Carr would rather spend with family or working on his craft. He has learned how and when to say no during this crazy time of year.
“I’m trying to learn as we go through it how to say no and things like that and I think I’m getting pretty good at it now and how to tell people no,” he said. “Because, everyone just wants a piece of what’s going on. They didn’t much want a piece of it when we were 3-13, you know? So, you can really have that inner circle of people you really love and you can trust and you’re just kind to everybody else.”