Here are things I know, 100%, without a doubt. Derek Carr is the best quarterback the Raiders could reasonably acquired over the last 5 years. He is one of the best values from the draft in the past decade. And everyone who says different is wrong.
Here’s things I believe, 100%, without a doubt. Derek Carr is not an elite NFL quarterback and needs to be elevated by those around him rather than the other way around. I also know that this is the majority of starting NFL quarterbacks and still significantly better than the vast majority of want to be NFL quarterbacks who either never got a chance or failed when they did.
The curious case of Derek Carr and Raider Nation is a classic case of expectations versus reality. The arguments are flawed on both sides, which in turn ensures that the two sides will never see eye to eye. Each is dug into to their view and believe it in their soul. They can’t see the other side of the argument because it is so obvious that Derek Carr is the problem or Derek Carr is being held back by a myriad of other problems.
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Rumors of a $60M contract for Brady and trade rumors to the Bears and Colts may signal that the front office is ready to move on. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And Carr’s Instagram post without a caption with Mack adds gasoline to this rumor. But finding his replacement is still going to be difficult, but with 2 first round picks, it may be possible.
So is Derek Carr the problem or the solution? The truth is, it’s both. When comparing Carr to Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, he falls short up to this point. Since 2000, here are the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Brady (6), P. Manning (2), E. Manning (2), Roethlisberger (2), Rogers, Brees, Wilson, Foles (Wentz), Flacco, Mahomes, Brad Johnson (sorry), and T. Dilfer.
Of those 11, really only a few stand out as less than hall of fame discussion quarterbacks who elevated their teams and had success with one franchise through most of their careers. And Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer and Flacco were on teams that were some of the most historically dominating defenses.
The argument I’m making is that successful, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are few and far between and the position has been dominated by a few elite players or elite teams for the past 20 years.
The interesting part, is this is actually the main crux for the pro-Carr and anti-Carr groups. The pro-Carr fans will say that Carr may not be in the elite, hall of fame class yet, but neither was Drew Brees in his first 5 years. In addition, the majority of those quarterbacks had elite, hall of fame type supporting cast, an elite defense, or both. They also had consistency from ownership and time to put it all together. They believe that given time, weapons, defense, and scheme Carr could move into this class.
The anti-Carr group will say that Carr is not elite and not in this class and the Raiders should be bold and go get the next dominate quarterback. They point the the Chiefs who had playoff success with a game manager, but took the bold move of trading up to get the guy they believed would be a game changer in Mahomes. They believe five years is enough time to build upon the promise
Again, both arguments make sense on their own merit. But they both miss the point. There are better quarterbacks that would give the Raiders a better chance to win. But those quarterbacks are not and have not been available.
And, most importantly, if we take a look at each of those Super Bowl winning team or even consistently successful teams, you will find roster building that led to the success and allowed these quarterbacks to thrive. If winning is the measuring stick, the quarterback is a huge part, but not the only part.
Okay, so you still don’t believe you’re wrong? I figured. Here’s the real argument: there is nothing the Raiders could have obviously done since drafting Derek Carr that would make them better at the quarterback position. And drafting Derek Carr was one of the most valuable & savy moves that any team has made at the quarterback position.
To show this, there’s only 3 ways you will acquire a quarterback. Through the draft, through free agency, and through a trade. Of those three, we can easily see what quarterbacks were drafted and which signed as free agents. We can also evaluate trades, but that’s a bit harder because there are a number of potential trades that could have happened that didn’t. But lets agree that you’re not trading for a established, winning quarterback no matter what you want to give up.
Here are our assumptions. Most starting QBs are first round picks, so we will assume revisionist history and that we can take ANY quarterback that would have been available at the time of drafting with the first round pick. This is with the benefit of seeing them play, so this should be easy.
We will also show the players drafter before the pick to debate whether there should have been a move up. Moving from pick 24 to pick 1 is a pipe dream in most cases, especially if there’s a generational QB sitting there. That said, lets take a look of what has been available via the draft since Carr was drafted in 2014.
|Year||Picks||Drafted Before||Drafted After|
|2019||4, 24, 27||Kyler Murray (1)||Daniel Jones (6)|
Dwayne Haskins (15)
Drew Lock (42)
Jarrett Stidham (133)
Garner Minshew (178)
|2018||15||Baker Mayfield (1)|
Sam Darnold (2)
Josh Allen (7)
Josh Rosen (10)
|Lamar Jackson (32)|
Mason Rudolph (76)
|2017||24||Mitchell Trubisky (2)|
Patrick Mahomes (10)
Deshaun Watson (12)
|DeShone Kizer (52)|
C.J. Beathard (104)
Nathan Peterman (171)
Chad Kelly (253)
|2016||14||Jared Goff (1)|
Carson Wentz (2)
|Paxton Lynch (26)|
Christian Hackenberg (51)
Jacoby Brissett (91)
Dak Prescott (135)
Cardale Jones (139)
|2015||4||Jameis Winston (1)|
Marcus Mariota (2)
|2104||5, 36*||Blake Bortles (3)|
Johnny Manziel (22)
Teddy Bridgewater (32)
Derek Carr (36)
|Jimmy Garoppolo (62)|
So there you have it. Want to see if there’s anyone I missed? Here’s the full list of every QB drafted at NFL.com.
Here’s the list of guys that everyone (should) agree have been more productive than Derek Carr and would likely make the Raiders better: Patrick Mahomes, Deshawn Watson, & Lamar Jackson. Only Jackson was available when the Raiders drafted. Mahomes & Watson both had mixed reviews & both were drafted after Mitch Trubisky, so they were not sure fire choices. The Raiders had the 24th pick and were coming off the best year of Carr’s career, so trading a kings ransom to move up would have been highly suspect.
Here’s the group that is debatable but have had more success: Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Allen, & Dak Prescott . Wentz and Goff were drafted 1st and 2nd overall in a year the Raiders had the 14th pick. Moving up would have been incredibly costly and the jury is still out on both. Dak Prescott is an example of a potential miss, but as a later round pick, again, he was far from a sure thing and has taken the Cowboys to the playoffs (and missed the playoffs) with a very talented roster.
And here’s the list of quarterbacks that we could debate all day, but would still split the Nation: Jameis Winston, Marcus Marriota, Teddy Bridgewater, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo?, Jacoby Brissett?, Garner Minshew?
Interestingly, a number of these guys are now available either through trade or free agency, which may is a testament to their not being a sure fire upgrade. Others like Kyler Murray Garner Minshaw and Daniel Jones still have the jury out.
The point here, there are very few scenarios, even with the benefit of 20/20 vision, can we find many clear upgrades in the draft for Derek Carr. Even if the Raiders did swing for the fence to improve like the Chiefs did with Mahomes, they only had a very limited opportunity to hit a home run.
And just on that point, would Mahomes be as good as fast if he didn’t sit behind Alex Smith for a year? Would Lamar Jackson have thrived in a different system? Would Watson have as much success without DeAndre Hopkins? Each player was put in a great situation and thrived.
Okay, so there weren’t many options in the draft, but lets just spend some of that cap room and sign the best free agents!
T. Hill (RFA)
Anyone on that list that you point to as a sure fire upgrade was either franchised or resigned to a large contract. Getting excited about Teddy Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill as the savior is as likely as Derek Carr being the savior. And while the 2020 free agent QBs look tempting, moving to a older QB like Brady or Rivers is only a stop gap move, assuming they are even actually available.
You can find talent in the trade market anywhere on the field, but not quarterback. The Raiders could definitely make a change via trade, but I can’t come up with a single scenario where it would actually help them both win games now and setup for the future.
Great, young quarterbacks don’t hit free agency and don’t get traded. If the Raiders want to roll the dice on a guy like Mathew Stafford, Nick Foles, or Kurt Cousins they may be able to pull it off. If they liked a young guy like when the Colts traded for Jacoby Brisset or the 49ers traded for Garoppolo, that’s may be available. But you are not getting any sure-fire winners that are an obvious upgrade in the trade market.
If Carr is traded and if history is any indication, the success rate for finding a franchise quarterback without a top pick is very challenging. Moving on from Carr and towards someone like Teddy Bridgewater or Nick Foles may be a better system fit, but may not change the wins and losses right away. Moving to someone like Brady would be interesting, but a short-term answer and this question would come up soon again.
Either way, Gruden and Mayock are the best men for the job to pick a new QB and hopefully can find the needle in the haystack. As we showed above, it can and has happened over the past 5 years and the results are playoffs and Super Bowls. But for the majority of teams, it hasn’t worked out as planned.