As the Raiders enter Year 3 of Jon Gruden's complete rebuild, the spotlight will shine even brighter on quarterback Derek Carr.
Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock spent the offseason revamping the Raiders' offensive arsenal around Carr, making the 2020 season a make-or-break campaign for the veteran signal-caller. The Raiders also brought in quarterback Marcus Mariota to push Carr or take the starting role if Carr is unable to make the leap expected in his third season in Gruden's offense.
Ever since Gruden arrived back with the Raiders, whispers have circulated that he didn't view Carr as the long-term answer. The Raiders wined and dined Kyler Murray before the 2019 NFL Draft. They also discussed signing Tom Brady this past offseason. But don't read into Mariota's arrival or Gruden's attraction to other quarterbacks as a sign he is out on Carr. In fact, NFL Media's Mike Silver reports that the opposite is true in the Raiders' building.
"My understanding in that building is that Jon Gruden is more staunchly behind Derek Car than maybe people at the very top of the organization," Silver said Monday on NFL Network.
Carr has not been perfect in his Raiders tenure, but he also has faced a lot of adversity.
Prior to Gruden's arrival, Carr had never spent more than two years in the same offensive system. He constantly had to adjust to new coaches, coordinators and systems early in his NFL career. The Raiders defense also has surrendered an average of 26 points per game in Carr's career. Asking a quarterback to constantly score 27 or more points in order to win a lot for any signal-caller to overcome, and it's made even more difficult when you aren't given the proper offensive weapons in order to keep up with the points your defense is letting up.
Carr has found a fair amount of success when being down late, however, The Raiders quarterback has mounted 18 career fourth-quarter comebacks, an impressive number by any standard.
Coming off a good statistical season in 2019, Carr is looking to forward to a big year in 2020 that can cement himself as the Raiders' franchise quarterback.
"I have a lot to prove to myself. I have a lot to prove to my organization. I'm going to be completely honest with you: I'm tired of being disrespected," Carr told Raiders reporters on a video conference call when asked if he thought about sitting out due to the coronavirus pandemic. "There was no question I was going to play this year."
In the past, Carr has been frustrated by the criticism he has faced. Even when he has a good statistical season, as he did in 2019, Carr believes he is judged only on wins and losses and not how talented the team around him is. He vowed to focus only on what goes on in the Silver and Black's locker room in 2020, and not the outside noise.
"It's not about proving anybody wrong. It's about just going to getting that Super Bowl trophy with my teammates," Carr said. "It has nothing to do with anybody outside, but on the inside, we just want to hold that trophy. Because, what I'm tired of, the hype machine that sometimes the NFL can be. I played way better last year, than I did in 2016, yet all we do is talk about that. Well, we won 12 games, so oh yeah, everyone's excited. I'm done with all that stuff. So, you can say good stuff, you can say bad stuff. I think you can sense it in the last probably year or so, I just don't care anymore, you can say whatever you want. I'm trying to go win that Super Bowl, so we can go hang one of these banners in this beautiful indoor that we've got. And then I want to try and go do it again and then I want to try to go do it again until I'm too old or they kick me out of this place."
Make no mistake, the starting job is Carr's until he shows he isn't the answer or Mariota takes it from him.
Both Mayock and Gruden were big fans of Mariota coming out of Oregon, but the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner struggled in 2019 before losing his starting job to Ryan Tannehill. Mariota spent the offseason getting his shoulder and ankle back to 100 percent. He has had up-and-down moments early in camp, showing he still has a long way to go to actually challenge Carr for the starting job.
Carr has fought through a lot of adversity as Raiders quarterback. He has had many valid excuses for why there are more Ls on his ledger as starter than Ws.
Gruden and Mayock removed most giving Carr a number of new offensive weapons and adding talent to a defense that was gashed last season.
All of the excuses have been removed. Now, it's time for Derek Carr to prove he's the Raiders answer at quarterback.