OAKLAND – Derek Carr was going over to the Black Hole after Sunday’s Oakland Coliseum finale, rain or shine.
The Raiders quarterback promised himself he would say 'Thank you' to the team’s most rabid, loyal supporters after six seasons playing in this stadium. He has done some great things here, leading the team on several fourth-quarter comebacks both during their 2016 run to the playoffs and other seasons that went far worse.
This fan base long supported Carr, who shares great affinity for Raiders lore and the great quarterbacks who came before him, but it’s starting to turn hostile.
Social media’s a breeding ground for virtually anonymous hate and critique, but dissatisfaction with the Raiders quarterback has manifested in a chorus of boos at recent home games gone awry.
"Oh gosh, what's new with our crowd?” Carr said with a smile. “Trust me, it's not under my skin, it's nothing new."
Carr understands that and went over to the Black Hole anyway, despite a shocking 20-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars where the rug was pulled out from under a Raiders team that controlled proceedings for three-plus quarters and then completely fell apart.
He was booed intently. Objects thrown on the field increased during his time there, as fan behavior got messy as reality set in that the Raiders are now done playing football in Oakland.
“I just wanted to say thanks,” Carr said. “Whenever I'm done playing football, they can get mad at somebody else someday that's the quarterback, you know what I mean? There have been too many good times, too many fun memories I've had with especially those certain people, where it's our last time there.
“It's such a cool moment, to say 'Thank you,' to some of those guys, familiar faces. Memories of throwing a ball and breaking Gorilla Rilla’s chain and signing it the next week. So many memories with all those people, so I had told them I was going to say hi to them after the game no matter what."
Carr has played 42 games at Oakland Coliseum. He will not play another one. That didn’t draw emotion out of the quarterback during his postgame press conference, not with how the game turned out and everything that happened after.
"I think right now it's just, I just want to see my family,” Carr said. “Yeah, you miss it, yeah you've got a lot of memories here and things like that, but we had a run here way longer than I've been here. The Oakland Raiders have been here and things like that, so you think about all the players and things that you got to where the same jersey as. That's awesome. It will be something that you have in the memory banks, but it's life, and you just keep going.”
Carr will carry on through the season as a lightning rod chiefly blamed for a four-game losing streak that dropped the Raiders out of playoff contention and sent the season into a sharply downward spiral.
It isn’t all his fault. Raiders receivers have let him down time and again. That includes some major moments in this game, including Tyrell Williams drop on 3rd-and-11 with the Raiders trying to ice a victory.
Carr also had his final Hail Mary pass hit Keelan Doss in the head and fell incomplete, with Marcell Ateman also there with a chance to make the play.
He faced significant pressure on the day and was sacked four times. Carr isn’t playing defense, where the Raiders have been unable to stop anyone for nearly a month now.
This is all about wins and losses, and Carr is judged upon that. Head coaches are, too, but Jon Gruden has eight years left on his contract after this one. He’s going nowhere. It’s far easier for Carr to walk the plank after another disappointing season, and fans seem to want that more and more each week.
That has been a difficult pill to swallow, considering how well Carr has done statistically and his belief that he has grown working within Gruden’s system. He has become calloused to the outside noise, trusting a return to the process of preparing to play games well.
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He’ll find solace in the routine this coming week, allowing him to get over Sunday’s disappointment. Carr wanted to win this game for the team and its fans. He leaves the Coliseum for the last time getting booed off the field. That’s a hard way to leave a stadium where he has orchestrated so many great moments. He was still bothered after the game by what happened in the fourth quarter and beyond.
“I'm still emotional, like angry about it,” Carr said. “There were a few plays out there that we left, but there's nothing I can say right now that's going to make anyone feel better. It's not going to make me feel better. Literally, the only thing you can do is watch the film, correct it, work out tomorrow, and get ready for the next game. It's a sucky thing sometimes, but that's literally the only thing you can do. So you can sulk and be sad and sit there and complain and point fingers and things like that, but you can point all of the fingers at me, that's OK."