If you follow the Raiders fairly or even semi-regularly, you are probably attuned to the metronomic nature of the coverage churned out as the preseason unfolds.
(For those of you with a burning need to know what constitutes “fairly or even semi-regularly” before continuing, a team of experts in Frequency Linguistics and Theoretical Calendar Mathematics from MIT and Caltech collaborated on an exhaustive analysis of the question. After three years of research, they concluded that “once every 9.2 days” was the minimum requirement; after three years and one day, they discovered that neither of their fields is a real thing. Or something like that).
There is a very distinct cycle of progress reports on one or two players that permeates nearly all of the articles in every variety of media. Also, predictions. Lots and lots of predictions. But let’s focus on the former for now. The current scoop du jour is Derek Carr’s jet-fueled ascension in the depth chart. The roots of the story lie in Albert Breer’s NFL Total Access piece on the quarterback battle down Oakland way. Citing “internal [team] beliefs,” Breer reported that Carr is nipping at Matt Schaub’s heels for the starting job, due to the “talent and intelligence” Carr has exhibited thus far.
Local beat writers, namely Vic Tafur of the Chronicle, quickly pounced on the story, filling in the details of Breer’s rather amorphous source material. Dennis Allen and OC Greg Olson provided the sort of glowing praise presumably responsible for the “internal belief”. Or so it seemed at first glance. A slightly closer inspection of the quotes reveals either an incredible degree of superficiality or the strange coincidence that Allen and Olson both failed Complimenting 101.
Olson’s evaluation is neatly summarized in his comment that Carr is “better than we thought he’d be.” He went on to observe, “[w]e drafted a pretty good player. He is very intelligent . . . We like his comfort level. Right away, you can see that this is not too big for him.” So, in other words, Carr seems quite familiar with this whole quarterback thing, and he’s not half bad at it, which is more than the team expected from a high second-round pick. That has the distinct whiff of damning with faint praise.
But Allen showed what it takes to rise to the top. Carr, he said “is a competitor.” In layman’s terms, this means that Carr “is going to continue to compete,” he explained. This is a good thing: “That’s really what we want him to do . . . I want him to come in here and try to get better every day. If he does that, everything else takes care of itself.” Just like Peyton Manning did it.
All kidding aside, I am fairly confident that Allen has a few more items on the QB checklist. It’s hard to read those statements with a straight face, but the truth of the matter is that they are in fluent coachspeak, a rare dialect of pidgin English incomprehensible to the rest of the English-speaking population. Its poet laureate is Bill Belichick, who has elevated the language to a haiku-like art form. Nobody can say nothing with more economy than the Hooded Honcho, but Allen and Olson clearly know what they’re doing.
It is vital to point out that coaches don’t speak like that for their own amusement. There are obviously very good reasons for the practice. For one, in a league in which the gradations separating best from worst are wafer thin, a team wants to avoid giving the other clubs even the slightest edge. Thus, informational clamp down.
The primary reason, however, is that at this early stage, the coaches simply do not know. Pump them full of sodium pentothal, and you will not get much more than the aforementioned “praise” – though you might get some fun fringe tidbits. OTA’s will only reveal so much about a player. A quarterback can demonstrate raw physical ability, which Carr has in spades, but a dearth of game-speed skills. There is no real rush, no LOS adjustment, no game day pressure.
All of this is especially true in Carr’s case. Coming out of Fresno State, it was no secret that he possesses excellent fundamentals – no surprise when your backyard catch partner growing up is a first-overall draft selection at QB. The real flaws in Carr’s game only become apparent when a havoc-wreaking defense comes out to play. With a man in his face and his first read taken away, Carr must get better. Simple as that. And early preseason workouts are no place to show it.
I have little doubt that Carr has the potential – that’s kind of the key word in this whole process – to become a solid starting quarterback, if not more. He could also flame out in the heat of the game. This is true of nearly every quarterback drafted into the NFL. Let’s wait at least a few months before we decide that Carr has gone one way or the other.