You knew how this would end for Derek Carr and the Raiders.
In the last Raiders game of 2019 in Oakland, when the quarterback was booed by the home crowd…
In April, when the Raiders gave him a “long-term” extension with a small signing bonus and an exclusive opt-out clause…
When Carr was frustrated in his postgame press conference in November, he was frustrated with how the season went and his nine years here…
The Raiders benched Carr for the final two games of the season, starting Sunday against the 49ers, as the 6-9 team remains mathematically unlikely to make the playoffs on Wednesday. They have $32.9 million guaranteed next season (plus $7.5 million in 2024) and don’t want to be on the hook if Carr gets injured in the next two weeks.
That tells you everything you need to know about the team’s feelings about Carr. Coach Josh McDaniels said he wanted a chance to evaluate backup Jarrett Stidham (who was with the Patriots). Some national reports believe the Raiders have not made a decision on Carr for next season and want to keep him healthy … if they ever do.
Truth be told, Carr has been a big name for a while, and it’s often been joked that he should have been traded years ago whenever there was a new rumor.
Reid: Derek Carr is waiting for the drop, but now the pressure is on the Raiders brass
Owner Mark Davis has been dealing with Carr for a while, and apparently thought the quarterback had to go through all the coaches Davis hired and fired since 2014, including disastrous draft picks and free agent signings. When Davis hired general manager Dave. In January, Ziggler and McDaniels urged Carr to continue.
During the interview, Ziggler and McDaniels were a little surprised by what they heard about Carr. Davis turned over the reins of the two-week search to former vice president of player personnel Ken Herock, who, now 81, was not available to speak. Other GM and coaching candidates were shocked by Raiders officials in the interview room talking so desperately about Carr, people familiar with the discussions said.
After all, Carr was the face of the organization for nine years, never said a bad word despite all the franchise’s embarrassing moments, was great in the community, and great on the field. He is the Raiders’ all-time passing leader (217), the first QB in Raiders history to surpass 30,000 career yards and the fifth player in NFL history to have at least 30,000 yards in his first eight seasons.
But he did not win. The Raiders had two winning seasons and two playoff appearances in Carr’s nine years, and he missed one of those playoff games (in 2016) with a broken foot. Last year, Carr’s leadership helped the Raiders overcome an off-the-field scandal that led to the firing of coach Jon Gruden over racist, homophobic and offensive e-mails and make the playoffs, but Davis lost to the Bengals in the playoffs. (and some) Carr decisions on the last drive).
There have always been questions about Carr’s toughness in the pocket — he’s been one of the league’s most durable defenders, missed just three games in nine seasons, and it’s strange that Gruden warmed to him during his 3 1/2 years here. In the end, Davis was a huge supporter, but never quite.
The Raiders flirted with Tom Brady for the 2020 season before Gruden decided Brady was too old. They signed Marcus Mariota to push Carr and Carr buried him. Because of Carr’s talent, the match was over before it started.
Carr has gotten better under Gruden, becoming even more aggressive and extending his play in the pocket — and the Raiders are off to a 3-0 start in 2021. But when the emails leaked two weeks later, Gruden was gone, and then the No. . 1 recipient, Henry Ruggs III, was released after pleading guilty to multiple felony counts of DUI and reckless driving causing death and bodily injury in a car accident that killed a woman and her dog.
The Raiders were still in the playoffs, but Davis decided not to retain interim coach Rich Bisaccia despite his success and reputation among the players. He went with the Patriots model and hired Bill Belichick quarterbacks Ziegler and McDaniels. Davis then allowed them to call Carr, and they not only agreed to a contract extension, but traded one of Carr’s best friends and former Fresno State teammate Davante Adams, a perennial All-Pro, for receiver.
But the Raiders fell short, becoming the first team in NFL history with four halftime wins. McDaniels and Carr were clearly never a match. The more people Carr said earlier in the season to say he was only trying to do what McDaniels wanted, the more people upstairs got to him. Carr’s 60.8 completion 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 McDaniels owns some of that, he’s not going anywhere.
I read that Ziegler and McDaniels met two nights to discuss Carr’s status, and Tuesday night they were looking to make Carr the starter. After all, they’re promoting the importance of winning and are technically still alive in the playoffs (although they could be eliminated before they even take the field on Sunday). Carr is a team captain and commands a lot of respect from his teammates in the locker room, so the team may not think it’s fair or honorable to blame him. At that point, I think it was time for Davis to step in and make a difference.
What will happen now?
Carr missed his fourth and fifth games in nine years, not the first because of an injury. He won’t practice with the team and will miss either of the final two games to avoid distractions.
The Raiders can cut Carr after the season, as it will be $40.4 million in 2023 and ’24 will be fully guaranteed on Feb. 15, three days after the Super Bowl. But the more likely scenario is that the two sides agree to a trade with another team. Carr included a no-trade clause in agreeing to a deal with a one-year exit plan and must agree to any trade direction.
“We’ll see how it goes. I’m not going to sit here and predict the future,” McDaniels said Wednesday of Carr’s future. “There’s a lot to sort out once the season is over.”
Carr once said he’d retire before playing for another team, and while he’s certainly possible — he’s the rare NFL player who has defined his future as a pastor, family man and golfer — I don’t think it’s going to happen. He is very competitive and will want to prove the Raiders wrong.
His friend Adams came to the Raiders to play with Carr and be closer to his family. He left the Packers with Aaron Rodgers’ status up in the air, and now he’s staring at Carr’s empty locker Wednesday after practice.
“Obviously, I don’t think anyone here is happy about that,” Adams told reporters. “He’s one of my best friends and the reason I’m here. If he wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be here right now.
“I think everybody knows how I feel about him and there’s a process of how things go with that. I’m not going to sit here and move on. I’m rooting for the guy and we’ve got to finish the season the best we can.”
(Top photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)