Derek Carr is slated to be the Raiders' starting quarterback in 2020, but he will be challenged.
The Raiders signed Marcus Mariota to the most lucrative backup quarterback contract in the NFL, making the Oregon product more of a 1B/C than a true understudy. Mariota lost his job with the Tennessee Titans in 2019, as injuries and inconsistent play plagued the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner.
Both Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden were fans of Mariota coming out of college and still believe he has all the tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL.
But for that to happen, the Raiders know they will have to do some work to get him back to the Marcus Mariota they saw coming out of Oregon.
“I think the whole thing with my background and Jon’s background is a lot of things we said and did in our past in public," Mayock said Tuesday on a conference call with local media. "So, if you’re Marcus Mariota and you want to know what the general manager of the Raiders thought about him before he came out, or what Jon Gruden thought about him before he came out, all he’s got to do is go back and check public record. I mean, he went through Gruden’s 'Quarterback Camp' on television. I had him as the top quarterback in that draft. He knows that both of us believed in him coming out and still believe in him."
"He’s got to get healthy," Mayock continued. "We got to rebuild him a little bit to get his confidence back. Build him up from the ground up. It’s going to take a little while I think just to get him healthy and where he wants to be, but we’re excited about the quarterback room. And I thought Marcus did a great job with the first couple interviews he had, just talking about where he was, which is he wants to support Derek [Carr] and he wants to become the best version of Marcus Mariota that he can become.
"And that’s the way we look at it. Let’s see who the best Marcus Mariota is, and, in the meantime, we love what we have with Derek Carr so we’re real happy with our quarterback room."
Carr is entering Year 3 in Gruden's system, but he hasn't played at the level to cement himself as the long-term solution at quarterback. He'll get that chance again in 2020, with the Raiders planning to put everything around him necessary to determine whether or not he's the guy. That will include adding at least one, and probably two, wide receivers in the NFL draft.
The upcoming season, however, won't be like past ones for Carr where he faced little challenge from the like of Mike Glennon, A.J. McCarron and DeShone Kizer. Mariota has all the talent to be a good-to-great NFL quarterback if he can get healthy and has a team that believes in him, which Mayock and Gruden certainly do.
If Carr falters at any point in the 2020 season or Gruden feels his offense needs a spark, there now will be another legitimate option to turn to and one fans surely will clamor for.
Mariota was dynamic during his first two seasons in the NFL. He suffered a setback after fracturing his fibula on the same day as Carr in 2016. Despite that, Mariota still led the Titans to a playoff win in Kansas City -- place Carr never has won -- during the following season.
During Week 1 of the 2018 season, Mariota took a helmet to his throwing elbow and suffered from nerve issues for the remainder of the season that caused him to not be able to grip the football properly. It appears he never fully healed from that and went out last season fighting to keep his job while not at 100 percent.
With Carr the Day 1 starter, Mariota will have the ability to get healthy without feeling the pressure of trying to hold onto his job. He was given an incentive-laden contract by the Raiders that shows he believes he can challenge Carr for the starting job.
If he's healthy, there's no reason to believe that won't be the case. And his arm talent and mobility make him an ideal quarterback for Gruden's offense.
All that's left is to start the rebuilding of Marcus Mariota.