Raiders

Derek Carr's status unchanged with Raiders keeping eye on QB prospects

Derek Carr's status unchanged with Raiders keeping eye on QB prospects

PHOENIX – General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden have been consistent in praising quarterback Derek Carr this offseason, which has largely been ignored by those viewing the Raiders from a distance.

Compliments aimed at Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock throughout the pre-NFL draft process have been heard loud and clear, fueling speculation the Raiders will take a quarterback early in the draft to either push Carr or succeed him under center.

Gruden and Mayock haven’t tried to silence the screams. It’s a futile effort, anyway.

Here are the facts: Carr is fully expected to start in 2019…and…it’s certainly possible the Raiders will take a quarterback early in the draft. Calling it probable or expected, however, might be a stretch.

The Raiders have great faith in Carr. Getting a close look at top passing prospects doesn’t change that. Nor will it prevent the Raiders from gaining a firm grasp on this year’s quarterback class.

They worked with Lock, Daniel Jones and Ryan Finley at the Senior Bowl and like all three. They visited Murray and Haskins at their pro days and will conduct private workouts with both top-10 prospects. Those guys can sling it, too.

It’s all part of the Raiders’ evaluation process leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft.

“Information is gold, and it always will be,” Mayock said Monday at the NFL owners meeting. “We all know that Jon Gruden is a quarterback guy. Jon’s going to evaluate every quarterback out there every single year. That’s just who he is.”

The Raiders want to see Carr thrive in his second year under Gruden. After adding dynamic offensive pieces in free agency, he’ll get that chance in 2019.

“He’s going to be our quarterback,” Gruden said in a Monday "NFL Network" interview. “I’m not going to address all of the rumors. I could care less about the rumors. He threw for 4,100 yards, threw for almost 70 percent (completions) in a very dire, tough circumstance. So I have a lot of confidence in Carr, what he can do with Antonio Brown, with Tyrell Williams, with Trent Brown coming in here to help our offensive line, with a better defense. Yeah, I’m excited about Carr.”

Mayock is, too, but it’s his job to explore possible upgrades across the roster and to know everything about every prospect. Quarterback will be a tough one to improve.

“Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback. I do believe that,” Mayock said. “We had Drew Lock at the Senior Bowl. He’s a potential first-round pick and we got to work with him for a week. We did our due diligence. We’re going to see Kyler Murray and we’re going to see Haskins (in private workouts). We believe they’re high-level quarterbacks, and that’s due diligence. You’d better know how good these guys are. You’d better know what other teams are interested in, and whether or not you can improve your own position. That’s part of what a head coach and GM do, to evaluate every position on your football team. You owe it to your team to do the best job you can and upgrade where you can.

“But, and I said this back at the NFL combine: I don’t think there are very many people who are better than Derek Carr.”

[RELATED: Raiders can benefit from chip on Antonio Brown's shoulder]

Even if the Raiders don’t choose a quarterback at all in this draft, hard evaluation work was not wasted.

“I think it pays tangential results down the road,” Mayock said. “We’ve watched every throw these guys have made. We know their strengths and weaknesses. If we see them in the division or the conference, we feel like we’ll have a leg up in the game-planning process going against that kid. All of it plays into the due diligence process down the road.”

Ex-Bucs claim Barrett Robbins' absence just excuse for Raiders' loss

Ex-Bucs claim Barrett Robbins' absence just excuse for Raiders' loss

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

A number of factors went into the Raiders' demoralizing defeat at the hands of Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. The story behind the mysterious disappearance of Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins is revealed in NBC Sports' latest Sports Uncovered podcast, which was released Thursday.

Robbins missing the biggest game of his life no doubt played a role in the 48-21 thrashing the Raiders suffered. As did coach Bill Callahan's puzzling decision to alter the game plan at the last minute. But some Raiders believe Gruden and the Bucs knew their plays and formations, making the rout all but a certainty, blaming Callahan for giving the game to his former boss.

To a few former Buccaneers, though, all of that is just a bunch of excuses.

"The fact that your center went to Tijuana and got lost, and all of a sudden, um, he's not the quarterback," said Booger McFarland, who was a defensive tackle for the Bucs. "He's not the star wideout. He's not the star defensive player. He's the center."

"I've seen [Bill] Romanowski at a couple different events," Shelton Quarles said. "I've seen Rich [Gannon] at a couple of different events. And we've had conversations, and they're like, 'Oh, well you guys got lucky because Barret Robbins was out. We had a backup center, and our game plan was to run the ball down your throat.' OK, well, then just run your game plan. If that's something you practiced all week then run that."

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

As for the charge that Gruden and the Bucs knew the Raiders' plays, Tampa Bay had seen the scheme before. Every day.

"It's the same offense that Jon Gruden ran when he was there," McFarland said. "So, we practiced against the same offense for a year. So, if you're not going to change any of the same audibles that Gruden uses in Tampa, then that's on you."

In the end, Robbins' absence didn't play a huge role in the Bucs' romp. Gruden and the Buccaneers were ready for anything and everything the Raiders were going to throw at them, and Callahan was outmatched from the opening kick-off.

The Raiders approached the matchup as if they had already won the Super Bowl. Owning the league's No. 1 offense and facing a Bucs team no one expected to be there, some members of the Silver and Black were ready for the parade.

"I was like, 's--t, I'm about to get my second ring,'" defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "We about to drag these jokers. They ain't doing nothing against us. Nothing. We about to whoop these jokers."

But once Callahan made the last-minute game plan switch, Tim Brown and the rest of the Raiders entered Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego knowing they weren't bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.

"We go into the Super Bowl knowing that we don't have a chance to win," Brown said.

[RELATED: How Davis told Trask of Robbins' Super Bowl disappearance]

The Raiders' defeat at the hands of Gruden and the Bucs can be laid at the feet of many people.

Barret Robbins was an easy scapegoat at the time. The center went out and partied too hard and missed the game, so it's his fault. Years later we know better. The Raiders knew better in the moment.

Even if he had suited up, the Bucs were prepared to slow down Callahan's offensive attack. Almost like they knew what was coming.

How Raiders' Al Davis told Amy Trask of Barret Robbins' Super Bowl absence

How Raiders' Al Davis told Amy Trask of Barret Robbins' Super Bowl absence

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Amy Trask had a conversation with Barret Robbins on the morning of Super Bowl XXXVII. The brief exchange between the then-Raiders CEO and Pro Bowl center didn’t raise any red flags.

A phone call with owner Al Davis a short while later, however, indicated that something was very wrong.

“Quite early that morning, I had gone out on a run and saw Barret in the lobby,” Trask said. “I ran into him, went up to my room and not long thereafter, Al called me and said, ‘Barrett’s not playing.' I said, ‘I just saw him in the lobby. He can play. I just had a conversation with him. He can play.’ And Al shared with me that others had made the decision to send Barret home. I hung up the phone, looked at my husband and I said, ‘We just lost the game.’ ”

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

The Raiders ended up getting trounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that night at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, and losing their top-notch center just before the game didn’t help. The distraction of Robbins' disappearance the night before, while on a bender that carried from Friday through Saturday evening, certainly didn’t help.

Neither did the fact that coach Bill Callahan changed the game plan at the last minute, or that Jon Gruden was on the other sideline and used his knowledge of the Raiders’ scheme and personnel against the team that traded him to Tampa Bay during the 2002 offseason.

All of those topics are discussed during Thursday’s episode of NBC’s “Sports Uncovered” documentary podcast, which delves deep into Robbins’ sudden disappearance and the root causes of it, exploring the role his mental health played in that period and over his entire life.

Robbins admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to play in the game. He was not mentally able to do so after a night of partying and a mental-health episode that put him in a bad state. The Raiders evaluated Robbins after he returned to the team hotel Saturday evening and decided he wasn’t able to play.

Team doctors concluded that he wasn’t in a proper mental state to play in the biggest game of his life.

“On [Sunday] morning, I woke up and stretched and walked with Willie Brown and saw the doctors and everything,” Robbins said in an archived interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Greg Papa. “And, if they would have told me I could have played, I don’t know if I could’ve at that point. To be honest with you, I was sick.”

The Raiders sent him away and checked him into the Betty Ford Clinic in Riverside. It was only there, for the first time in his life, that Robbins was accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He wasn’t properly treated for the condition before then, which led to problems off the field with substances of abuse.

Robbins was transported to a hospital on Sunday and barely watched any of the game.

“I saw a couple of plays on TV,” Robbins said. “They were watching it when I got there, but I didn’t sit up and watch it. I was there while I was, you know, on suicide watch. … It was a bad situation, obviously, and to recover from that, I don’t know if I have.”

[RELATED: The real reason why Barret Robbins missed Super Bowl XXXVII]

The Raiders haven’t gotten over that loss, either. It ended a short but dominant run and ushered in an era of futility unlike any in Raiders history. The Raiders have made the postseason only once since losing the Super Bowl.

The loss was difficult for those heavily invested in it. Among others, Trask took it particularly hard.

“When we lost, I cried myself to sleep that night wearing the same clothes I wore to the game,” Trask said. “I put my head on my husband’s shoulders and cried myself to sleep. But I never, ever lost sight of the fact that Barret Robbins is a human being. As badly as I felt, and as miserable as I was, and as hurt as our fans were and our organization was, I can only imagine Barret’s pain.”