ALAMEDA – Derek Carr has been criticized more this season than any other time in his professional career. That includes his rookie year, when youth and a lackluster supporting cast excused tentative tendencies and poor yards per attempt. Can’t knock Carr’s hustle from 2015 or last year, when he was a legitimate MVP candidate.
Those seasons set the bar sky high. July’s $125 million contract extension put it over the moon, and Carr has limboed right under.
Carr hasn’t been as good this season. That’s tough to argue. Neither have those around him, but they’re drawing far less ire. Quarterbacks and head coaches (and coordinators) take the Ls.
Carr seems fine with that, comfortable as a human shield when times get tough. He tried to set up a force field after Sunday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City, which put the Raiders near playoff extinction.
His message: blame me.
Carr has done that before, several times in fact. It rang hollow through the fan base this time, despite a plea uncharacteristically twinged with anger and frustration.
"I think we’re all pretty upset. If you’re not, then you’re obviously not putting enough into it," Carr said. "If you’re wanting to point a finger or those kind of things, I don’t think that that’s right either. If you’re upset with yourself and you’re upset that you didn’t win the game...I still stand by how I felt, man. I was hot, to be honest. I put way too much effort into this to go out there and not play my best."
Fans don’t want apologies. They want to see anger lead to action. And improvement.
That hasn’t happened much during a disappointing 6-7 season falling well below expectations, despite best efforts. The mob wants answers or blood or both. Same might be said of ownership.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s job is in jeopardy. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s feeling some heat, though that might be a year too early at best, unless things completely unravel down the stretch.
Carr makes a lot more than those two. He isn’t getting fired either way. He is, however, taking flak. Common refrains include a penchant for check downs and getting unnecessarily flustered in the pocket. Add deep passes to that. He was 0-for-7 on passes of 20 yards or more against Kansas City.
“Things come out when it’s not going right,” Carr said. “I think I completed more deep balls last year, throwing it times I shouldn’t have thrown it. Throwing it up, and we all high-five and clap about those things. Again, when you lose, people just have a different way of spinning things.”
Carr is immensely talented, with football savvy and leadership skills. Sometimes good quarterbacks have hiccup years before getting back to normal. He’s 26 years old, with several prime years ahead while remaining under contract. Expect him to be a good quarterback for a long time.
Carr isn’t one to chuck others under the bus. He generally leads with positive reinforcement, even when outsiders hope he’ll channel Rich Gannon.
He could use some help, yet knows he must play better to get this team going right.
This is an average team if Carr is anything less that excellent. That may well have been the case last year, when seven fourth-quarter comebacks sparked an incredible 12-4 run to the playoffs.
He hasn’t been as good this season, and the Raiders hover around .500. No shocker, there. That fact, combined with lofty expectations, has created some hostility toward the Raiders and their typically popular quarterback.
Carr is still looking to lead the Raiders toward better days, even with three games left and unlikely playoff prospects. His key during dark times, doesn’t include a rah-rah speech.
“You don’t really have to say much, True character reveals itself when times are hard or it doesn’t go your way or you think something else should have happened,” Carr said. “Pointing fingers and all those things…again, true character reveals itself. That kind of stuff has a way of working itself out. When you have guys in the locker room coming together saying, ‘What if we did this? Would that be better?’ That’s how we fix things. That’s problem solving. If guys want to be part of the problem, that kind of stuff, that just airs itself out. You don’t need to ask. That stuff will just come out.”
Del Rio hopes the offense will “let it rip,” play fast and a bit cavalier down the stretch. That’s fine with Carr, someone with a Brett Favre streak deep inside. It hasn’t been out consistently this season, but Carr promises to go big.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Carr said. “We’re only promised three more and I can assure you I’m going to go out there and let it rip man, because that’s what the head coach wants. That’s what he’s asking us to do. So, I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have.”