Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t had continuity in his young career. The Raiders have fired four offensive coordinators since drafting him in 2014. They have blown through two offensive systems.
Now Jon Gruden’s in town, ready to install a third. It’s going to be complicated. Gruden is going to be demanding, and at times abrasive.
Carr has the work ethic required to excel in Gruden’s system, armed with a thicker skin that you might think. Even so, Carr must kick it up a notch.
Rich Gannon should know. The former Raiders quarterback worked with Gruden for three seasons.
“I don’t know if anyone can match Jon’s intensity,” Gannon said Tuesday. “I don’t know if that’s possible, but you must put the work in and be prepared. You must have a passion for the game. I don’t care how hard Derek has worked before, he’s going to have to change his work habits to fit in.”
This isn’t another story about whether Carr can handle working with Gruden. He can, and will.
But it won’t be easy. Gruden is notoriously hard on quarterbacks, and said Carr’s job description will expand.
“We’re going to ask a lot more from Derek Carr at the line of scrimmage,” Gruden said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re going to put him in a position to do some of the things we did in the past with his recognition of defenses, his ability to communicate and showcase his talented arm.
“We have to finish hiring the coaching staff first. I think we can improve the roster a little bit around him. I think the offense will demand more from him, which will really improve him (as a quarterback).”
Let’s unpack that quote in three stages.
No. 1: Carr has been asked to do a lot at the line of scrimmage before. That was true even as a rookie, when he was working under coordinator Greg Olson. He’ll reunite with Olson – quarterback and veteran coach had a great working relationship -- who returns as Raiders offensive coordinator.
Gruden said he’ll call plays. He’ll be hands-on tutoring his 26-year old quarterback still entering his prime. Make no mistake: Carr was an attraction for Gruden to take this job, and believes Carr’s best football lies ahead.
“He has great arm talent, he’s athletic, he’s got natural leadership skills, he’s young, he’s in his prime, he’s healthy now,” Gruden said during his introductory press conference. “He has, I think, been in a lot of different systems, played for a number of different quarterbacks. There hasn’t been a lot of continuity around him that way. I think he has a huge upside. I think with Greg Olson and the system we are going to put in place is going to demand a lot from him and I think that is what is going to unlock the greatness in him but very, very excited to have him as our quarterback.”
No. 2: Gruden is still hiring a coaching staff. Olson is in place, and Gannon won't join him as quarterbacks coach. The former Raiders quarterback and NFL MVP announced that fact Wednesday on a paid apprearance with 95.7-FM in the Bay Area. Gannon said the lifestyle change going from the CBS broadcast booth to a position coach would be too big to make a major career switch.
"It was something I thought about," Gannon said on 95.7-FM, "but I just couldn't pull the trigger."
Gannon said he'll be involved in a minimal capacity with Carr and Gruden's Raiders.
"I want to help him understand Jon Gruden," Gannon said. "Jon can be very intense. Jon has the ability to talior himself to who the players are. Derek isn't someone who needs special treatment."
The Raiders already have quarterbacks covered, even without Gannon there every day. Gruden will be invovled with Carr. Olson will be primarily responsible for Carr's development, especially with Gruden calling plays.
No. 3: Gruden said he can improve Carr’s supporting cast. That’s certainly true. While the offensive line is virtually set, there could be an overhaul at receiver outside Amari Cooper. Michael Crabtree could be cut without guaranteed money. So can Cordarrelle Patterson. GM Reggie McKenzie loves Seth Roberts, but he’s only owed $2 million guaranteed coming off a down year. Gruden might prefer other pass catching options, and could make some changes there this offseason.
Getting Carr back on track following a down year is Gruden’s most important job. Gruden has confidence the signal caller will thrive in a system he’ll work within for several years to come thanks to a 10-year contract the head coach signed this week.
“I think there is a huge ceiling in Derek Carr. I think he has proven that,” Gruden said. “It’s up to us as a coaching staff to improve around him, get more consistent, and come up with an offense that really allows him to soar into another level. It is exciting and I think if I was a Raiders fan, I would come every week very excited to see No. 4 under center.”