You know how this ends for Derek Carr and the Raiders.
Back in 2019 in the Oakland Raiders’ final game, the quarterback was booed by the home fans…
Back when the Raiders offered him a small signing bonus and a special opt-out clause in April…
And in November, when Carr broke down in a postgame news conference, he was overcome with frustration at how this season had gone, as well as his nine years here…
On Wednesday, the 6-9 team still had a chance, albeit slim, to make the playoffs, while the Raiders benched Carr for the final two games, starting Sunday with the 49ers. They don’t want to be on the hook for $32.9 million guaranteed next season (and another $7.5 million in 2024) if Carr is injured in the next two weeks.
That tells you all you need to know about the team’s feelings about Carr. Coach Josh McDaniel said he would like the opportunity to evaluate backup Jarrett Stidham (who was with the Patriots). This is according to some national reports that the Raiders haven’t made a decision on Carr for next season and are looking to trade him for his health…if that’s what they do.
In fact, Carr has been a marked man for some time — and every time a new rumor comes up, he jokes that he should have been traded years ago.
Reed: Derek Carr is taking the fall, but the pressure is now on the Raiders brass.
Owner Mark Davis has been hot on Carr for some time. The quarterback seems to think he should have overcome all the terrible draft picks and free agent signings and coaches Davis has hired and fired since 2014. In January, Ziegler and McDaniels allowed the call to continue with Carr.
During that interview process, Ziegler and McDaniels had to go back a bit on what they had heard about Carr. Davies handed over the leadership of the two-week search to former vice president of player Ken Herrock, and Herrock, now 81, didn’t mince words. Other GM and coaching candidates in the interview room were surprised by how Raiders officials talked about Carr, people familiar with the discussions said.
Carr, after all, was the face of the organization for nine years – despite all the embarrassing moments of the franchise, they do not say a bad word – and he was very good in the community and very good on the field. He is the Raiders’ all-time leader in passing touchdowns (with 217) and became the first QB in Raiders history to pass for 30,000 career yards and the fifth player in NFL history with at least 30,000 yards in his first eight seasons.
But he didn’t win. The Raiders had two winning seasons and two playoff appearances in Carr’s nine years, and he missed those playoffs (in 2016) with a broken leg. Last year, Carr’s leadership was a big factor in the Raiders overcoming off-field woes and the firing of coach Jon Gruden over racist, homophobic and insensitive emails, but Davis has fallen behind the Bengals (and some of them) in the playoffs. Carr’s decisions on the last drive).
There have always been questions about Carr’s toughness in the pocket — ironic because he’s one of the league’s most durable quarterbacks, missing just three games in nine seasons — and while Gruden has warmed to him in his 3 1/2 years here, he’s finally been a big fan, Davis said. It wasn’t really.
The Raiders flirted with Tom Brady through the 2020 season before Gruden decided Brady was too old. They stopped signing Marcus Mariota to push Kars and Karm buried him. Due to Carr’s poor skills, the race was over before it started.
Carr just got better and better under Gruden — and he kept extending plays and getting more aggressive in the pocket — and the Raiders are off to a 3-0 start in 2021. But Gruden said two weeks later when the emails came out and then no more. 1 receiver Henry Ruggs III was charged with a car crash that killed a woman and her dog and multiple criminal charges for DUI and reckless driving causing death and injury.
The Raiders still made the playoffs, but Davis decided not to continue under interim coach Rich Bisaccia despite his success with the players and his popularity. He went with the Patriots model and hired Bill Belichick protégés Ziegler and McDaniels. Davis then let them call on Carr and not only extended his deal, but also traded for receiver Davante Adams, a perennial All-Pro, one of Carr’s best friends and a former teammate at Fresno State.
But the Raiders didn’t get enough, becoming the first team in NFL history to blow four double-digit halftime leads. It was clear that McDaniels and Carr were never matched. Carr makes a point early in the season that McDaniels is trying to do what he wants and the more he says it, the more people are screaming upstairs. Carr’s 60.8 percentage and 86.3 passer rating are his lowest since his rookie season and his 7.0 yards per attempt and 235 yards per game are his lowest since 2017, and while McDaniel has some of that, he’s not going anywhere.
Ziegler and McDaniels met for two nights to discuss Carr’s situation, and my reading is Tuesday night, they were leaning toward keeping Carr as the starter. After all, they’ve been preaching the importance of winning and are still technically alive for the playoffs (although they could be eliminated before they even take the field on Sunday). Carr is the team captain and is highly respected by teammates in the locker room, and teammates may not think it’s fair or honorable to cheat on him. I think that’s when Davis stepped in and decided it was time for a change.
What will happen now?
Carr missed the fourth and fifth games in nine years and not the first due to injury. He won’t practice with the team and won’t be in either of the final two games to avoid distractions.
The Raiders can cut Carr after the season because that would make $40.4 million in 2023 and 24 fully guaranteed in February. 15, three days after the Super Bowl. But the more likely scenario is that the two sides agree to a trade with another team. When Carr accepted the deal with a one-year opt-out plan, he was given a no-trade clause and would have to approve any trade destination.
“We’ll see how this goes going forward. I’m not going to sit here and predict the future,” McDaniel said of Carr’s future Wednesday. There’s a lot to sort out after the season is over.
Carr once said he would retire before playing for another team, and he certainly could — he’s the rare NFL player who has mapped out his future as a pastor, family man and golfer — I won’t. Guess that’s what happened. He is very competitive and wants to prove the robbers wrong.
His friend Adams came to the Raiders to play with Carr and be closer to his family. Aaron Rodgers’ status was up in the air, so he left the Packers, and now he’s staring at Carr’s empty locker after practice here Wednesday.
“I don’t think anybody’s really happy about it,” Adams told reporters, “because he’s one of my best friends and the reason I came here in the first place.” I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for him.
“I think everybody knows how I feel about him and having said that, there’s a process of how things go. I’m not going to sit here and carry on. I’m going to support my guy and we’ve got to finish this season the best way we can.”
(Top photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)