Marcus Mariota

Derek Carr addresses Raiders' Marcus Mariota addition, Tom Brady talk

Derek Carr addresses Raiders' Marcus Mariota addition, Tom Brady talk

Derek Carr knew Marcus Mariota was on the Raiders’ radar this offseason. The Silver and Black needed a quality backup capable of stepping in should Carr miss time, something the team’s starting quarterback obviously understands.

There was never any doubt who the alpha was when Mike Glennon or A.J. McCarron were here. Those guys largely are career backups. Mariota, however, is not. He was the starter for four and a half years with the Tennessee Titans before losing the title to Ryan Tannehill.

Carr’s latest backup offers greater competition than most, even though the hierarchy remains as secure as ever. Carr, a seven-year veteran, is unfazed by that, even with unique incentives in Mariota’s contract that would pay him handsomely should he assume the starting spot.

“I gotta be honest with you, it doesn’t even bother me one bit,” Carr said in an interview with The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, in a Q&A posted Friday morning. “And that is being completely true to myself. No one outside of who I am is going to push me harder than me. Like, I always encourage guys to go ahead and wake up when I wake up, study how much I study, work hard like I work hard. I’m not the least bit looking to my left or to my right when I’m doing a rep, I’m focused on me.

“It’s just that when you’re the same face and you’re one of the last same faces that’s been around for seven years, people just look for things to point out.”

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Carr’s mistakes are pointed out more often than his statistical superlatives achieved working with head coach Jon Gruden, mostly because the team has struggled to win consistently over the past three seasons.

The backup quarterback is always a fan favorite, someone who remains attractive with clean jersey while the starter’s gets dirty over the successes and failures of an NFL season. That surely will be the case with Mariota, though the Oregon product is known as an excellent teammate who has made it clear he’s here to support Carr as the starter.

“I knew ahead of time that Marcus was on the radar, but I didn’t know if Marcus would choose to come here,” Carr said. “But I’m glad that he did. I will say this, I’ve been around a lot of good dudes, but he’s one of the best people that I’ve ever been around. I’ve had a lot of great quarterbacks come into our room and a lot of guys that were excited — E.J. Manuel comes to mind — but Marcus was the first one out of all those guys that right when he signed, he texted me and said, “Derek, I am here to fully support you and help in any way that I can, and grow myself as a player and get healthy.

“And not one time has that ever happened. He’s just here to help … and obviously, he is here to compete — we all know that. This is football. That’s everybody’s job.”

[RELATED: Oddsmaker loves Raiders' draft, chances in 2020 season]

Carr understands that it’s general manager Mike Mayock’s job, along with Gruden, to evaluate all quarterback options in the draft and free agency. He told The Athletic that he never doubted he would return as Raiders starting quarterback, even as the team was casually flirting with Tom Brady.

“Yeah, let’s be honest, the dude has won six Super Bowls,” Carr said. “You have to be crazy to not watch his film and talk about it when he is a free agent. Right? You’re going to watch film of Tom Brady. Like, where’s he at?

“…Everybody wants to make it into a bad thing. Either way, whatever happened, Raiders fans were going to be in good hands. We’re going to be good. We’re going to be efficient either way, Raiders fans. At the end of the day, you know, you can have 32 GMs watch the film and 16 may say this and 16 may say that. Obviously, our GM and coach made their decision. I know we live in a world of hot takes, and we gotta make some controversy, but the guy won six Super Bowls and every team in the league popped in his film when he became a free agent. I will just say that I’m glad to be our quarterback and I was very, very confident that I would be the whole time.”

Derek Carr says he's united with Marcus Mariota in Raiders' QB room

Derek Carr says he's united with Marcus Mariota in Raiders' QB room

When the Raiders signed free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason, many expected him to at least push incumbent Derek Carr for the starting position.

But despite the likely upcoming battle between them for playing time, Carr says the two already are developing a kinship off the field.

"We've talked already," Carr told Will Compton and Taylor Lewan. "He is by far one of the coolest, nicest, professional people I've ever been around. I've got nothing but good things to say about him. He's amazing."

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Carr also hopes the relationship continues to build going into the franchise’s first season in Las Vegas.

"I think the most important thing is to have a united quarterback room," Carr said. "I've always thought that. When you have a strong united quarterback [room], we can all go lead the football team.”

[RELATED: Raiders' draft class draws mixed grades from NFL experts]

Despite much criticism at the tail end of the 2019 season, Carr did set career-highs in completion percentage (70.4), passing yards (4,054) and passer rating (100.8). But the team’s collapse down the back half of the season caused rumors to swirl throughout the offseason.

Mariota has a lot to prove after losing the starting job to Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee, although he had started 61 games for the Titans over five seasons.

While solidarity between the two definitely is in the best interest of the Raiders, a little friendly competition wouldn’t hurt anyone.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders could trade up for Tua Tagovailoa if QB falls

NFL draft rumors: Raiders could trade up for Tua Tagovailoa if QB falls

The Raiders enter the 2020 NFL Draft with huge needs at wide receiver and cornerback. They also need to add a piece on the defensive line.

In short, quarterback is not a need that tops the list. Derek Carr will be the starter entering the season and Marcus Mariota will push him and be there to take over should Carr falter. The Raiders could look to draft a guy like Jalen Hurts on Day 2, but they are not expected to be a player for the likes of Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love.

However, should Tagovailoa start to slide in the draft, the Raiders reportedly could "sniff up" for trade scenarios, The Athletic' Ben Standing reported, citing a "connected source."

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Tagovailoa was seen as the presumptive No. 1 pick entering the college football season. But the meteoric rise of LSU's Joe Burrow and the dislocated hip Tagovailoa suffered in November have caused him to drop. Most draft experts still expect the left-handed gunslinger to be off the board by the No. 6 overall pick (Los Angeles Chargers), but there's a world in which Tagovailoa drops. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, teams have not been able to have their own medical staff evaluate Tagovailoa's hip.

If the Dolphins draft Herbert, as is expected, and the Chargers pass on Tagovailoa, the Alabama product could begin a precipitous slide. The Carolina Panthers (Teddy Bridgewater), Arizona Cardinals (Kyler Murray), Jacksonville Jaguars (Gardner Minshew), Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield) and New York Jets (Sam Darnold) all have their starting quarterbacks. The Jaguars seem like the likeliest landing spot, but all reports indicate they want to see what they have with Minshew.

Teams like the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers certainly will look to move up if Tagovailoa slides, but the Raiders -- with two first-round picks and three third-round selections -- are in a great spot to trade up and grab a possible franchise quarterback with Drew Brees upside. 

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have been extremely complimentary of Carr and gave Mariota a lucrative contract that suggests they believe he could be the right guy to lead the Silver and Black. Mayock said the Raiders plan to "rebuild" Mariota and give him the time and support to become the best version of himself.

All that points to a team with two quarterbacks on the roster who could be the franchise guy. With other holes to fill, would it be worth it for the Raiders to sell draft capital for Tagovailoa?

The short answer is probably not. Carr and Mariota give Gruden and Mayock the luxury of building up the rest of the roster while having two capable signal-callers on the team. Tagovailoa has enticing, sky-high potential, but he also comes with injury red flags and gambling and missing on a quarterback in the top 10 can set a franchise rebuild back years.

[RELATED: Mayock should follow his gut, make Lamb a Raider]

If Tagovailoa does slide, I expect the Raiders to discuss and be intrigued by the possibility of solving their quarterback question. But it's more prudent for them to stand pat, add a dynamic receiver and a lockdown corner and go from there.

Enter 2020 with two quarterbacks who have shown they can win at the NFL and see if either Carr or Mariota is the guy. If not, the Raiders can look to address the quarterback position starting in 2021.