(BOOMING THEATER VOICE):
One is a grizzled veteran on the brink of retirement. The other is a hotshot newbie with a whole lot of gumption and even more naivete.
Buddy cop movie? No, it’s a scenario even more timeworn and stolid. It’s Quarterback Controversy XXVI: Throwdown in Oakland!
As you may have heard, the Oakland Raiders brought in a bit of firepower after the failed Pryor-McGloin duopoly experiment last season. Playing the role of grizzled veteran is Matt Schaub, of the six solid starting seasons in Houston, and the one ignominious 2013. And the cocksure young gumshoe, 2014, will be played by Derek Carr.
The burning question throughout the lukewarm preseason grind: which one is a better quarterback?
It is a fleeting query to answer. There are spools of NFL game film on Schaub and plenty of stats to boot. Carr, on the other hand, has not played a down in the NFL. We haven’t even one frame of tape, not a mite of data to crunch. (Side note to Ben & Jerry’s: Data Crunch would be a peerless limited-time flavor should the Star Trek franchise ever decide to reboot the Next Generation series for the big screen).
Instead of groping aimlessly at unknowns and settling for apples-to-cider comparisons, perhaps it would behoove Raider Nation to take a look at Schaub and Carr on even footing. The only way to do so is to contrast their college careers.
Therefore, let’s hop into the Silver & Black time machine to return to the year 2004, a time when American Idol was still popular, a meme was only discussed in academic debates featuring Richard Dawkins, and a young quarterback from the University of Virginia hoped for a shot at the big time – lest he need to hack it with his voice in front of a simpering Simon Cowell.
Schaub had a tumultuous yet ultimately successful college career. Following a redshirt season in 2000, he made his first start in 2001, but wound up splitting time nearly evenly with a young up-and-comer named Bryson Spinner, of whom you have never heard, and most likely never will again. The next season, Schaub again had to shake off a challenge for the starting role, this time from redshirt freshman, Marques Hagans – another “student-athlete” eventually lost to anonymity.
Schaub entered his senior season on the Heisman watch list. As is far too often the case, the campaign quickly subsided to injury, in this case, a shoulder injury. In a shortened season, Schaub threw for just shy of 3,000 yards in 11 games, with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. More important than the gross numbers, this amounted to 7.1 AY/A.
Entering the NFL draft, scouts were fairly perfunctory in their assessments. “Although he does not possess a cannon for an arm, Schaub’s size and adequate arm are attractive enough for someone to take a shot at him in the third round. I don’t see him being any better than a career backup in the NFL,” noted one, somewhat dismissively. (All together now: meh!)
Carr, on the other hand, was the unchallenged starter for three seasons at Fresno State. In that time, he never threw for fewer than 3,500 yards in a season. In his last year as a Bulldog, Carr produced over 5,000 yards through the air, resulting in 50 touchdowns and a paltry eight picks. In terms of the all-important adjusted yards per attempt, Carr racked up a laudable 8.7.
Scouts were not so meek about Carr’s prospects as a pro. We have all heard the ringing projections. Quite a few draftniks named Carr the top quarterback in the draft – stupidly, in my opinion; to my eyes, Teddy Bridgewater was far and away the best available, but Carr certainly had a sturdy case for runner-up.
Nevertheless, as countless shoulda-coulda-woulda’s and several Clausens have taught us, experience routinely trumps potential in the NFL. Between Schaub and Carr, only one has that trump card. Carr almost certainly possesses superior promise, but right now, Schaub is clearly the better option at quarterback. The relative merits of each are only intensified by Carr’s singular weakness in college, working against pressure from a broken pocket. A cool head is the only path to a hot streak in the NFL, and based upon his college tape, the Las Vegas Bowl against USC being a case in point, Carr still needs at least one season to learn the finer points of adjusting to pressure.
Dennis Allen had it right – to some, this may seem a syzygy-like rarity – back in March: Schaub is, and should be, the starter.