Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr “Overhyped” and “Overrated”


Like a man dying of thirst in the middle of the desert, the Oakland Raiders have been searching for that cool drink of water that is a franchise quarterback for a long, long time. Not since Rich Gannon wore the Silver and Black have the Raiders had a quarterback able to quench that thirst. When they drafted Derek Carr at the top of the second round last season, the Raiders believed they’d finally found their oasis. And his performance as a rookie certainly didn’t strike many as a mirage in the desert.

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Unless you’re ESPN Insider Andrew Healy, that is.

It’s fair to say that Healy does not buy into the “Carr is a franchise QB” narrative and isn’t one of the second year pro’s biggest fans. In a column he penned this week, Healy gave us his take on why Carr isn’t the quarterback the team and fans think he is, and why he actually is a mirage in the desert, rather than an oasis.

In trying to derail the Carr hype train, Healy wrote:

"“So what’s not to like? Carr appears to be a cautionary tale about focusing on the wrong numbers. While Carr and [Andrew] Luck posted almost identical rookie years by traditional passer rating (Carr 76.6, Luck 76.5), their QBRs were quite different (Carr 38.4, Luck 65.2). And forget about Carr getting better as the season progressed: During the Raiders’ 3-3 stretch to end the season, he posted a minus-16.6 percent mark in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric…That was worse than his performance during the Raiders’ 0-10 start to the year (-13.8 percent).”"

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If that all sounds like incomprehensible nerd-speak gibberish spewed forth by a guy who’s spent far too long in a dark room, hyped up too many Red Bulls and/or quad espressos while reading the tea leaves of advanced analytics – well – that’s because it is.

With more than 3,200 yards passing, and 21 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions, it’s hard to call Carr’s rookie campaign anything but a success. What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that he did it without any semblance of a running game, and a cast of wide receivers who were – by far – the worst in the league. Any time Andre Holmes is your WR1, something has gone really, really wrong for you and your team. He also did it with one of the most inept coaching staffs that has ever paced a sideline.

Those are all some pretty big hurdles to overcome, but Carr managed to do just that and have a productive season in which he put up some numbers — outshining fellow rookies Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel, who were all selected ahead of him.

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  • Fortunately, there are quite a few “football people” around the league who get it. In a recent article by ESPN.com’s Mike Sando, one opposing defensive coordinator said:

    "“He can spin it, he has good accuracy, he makes quick decisions. The people that like him but do not rank him higher, well, he has an awful supporting cast. No run game, awful receivers. They drafted some guys. They have a shot.”"

    Another team’s personnel director echoed those sentiments:

    "“I think he is strong in the pocket, and just watching him, it feels like he is in command, knows where he is going with the ball and has plenty of arm strength. The lack of talent around him is pretty apparent. You get the offensive line and run game going, surround him with some better players, and he makes a big jump.”"

    Certainly, the addition of some real difference making talent in the form of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Clive Walford, as well as the return of Rod Streater from an injury that wiped out his 2014 season is going to pay huge dividends for Carr as those are all players who will have an immediate impact upon the Raiders’ offense.

    If the Raiders can get any sort of steady, reliable production out of their backfield – Latavius Murray, Roy Helu Jr., Trent Richardson, and Marcel Reece – it is going to open up a whole new world for the young signal caller. Oakland’s running game doesn’t need to be great It doesn’t have to be one of the best in the league. It simply needs to be adequate enough that defenses can’t abandon their run defense and tee off on Carr all day long – yet another factor that factors into some of the poor geek-speak numbers that Healy cites and rests his case on.

    Look, in today’s world, advanced analytics has a place, of course. It can provide some useful information in certain circumstances. But it must be taken with a grain of salt simply because dry numbers like the ones Healy builds his case on provide absolutely zero context and fail to take the factors on the ground into account. It is a tool – one of many – that should be used when assessing a player’s worth, value, and performance.

    But they way they’re often used today – by guys like Healy – is ridiculous. They latch on to a few raw numbers, attempt to spin that as somehow telling the whole story as they build their case – despite being taken completely out of context. They way advanced analytics are often used today, is just to give writers like Healy – whether they’re Raider Haters, or need to produce something with a deadline looming – something to stir the pot with.

    While it’s true that after just one season, we can’t yet project Carr’s career arc. Will it more closely resemble Aaron Rodgers‘ or JaMarcus Russell‘s? At this point, we don’t know. That is something we’ll have to see play out on the field. But what we do know is that a few numbers thrown into an article with no real context provided isn’t going to tell us much of anything either. Especially when there are other numbers which cast Carr in a positive light that Healy ignores or justifies away.

    Numbers don’t lie but they don’t always tell the whole story. Writers like Healy like to cherry pick numbers to build a case which they believe proves their point. But let’s not forget that when you boil it all down, the only number that truly matters is wins. As long as a QB can put up the W’s, his DOVA and QBR won’t really matter, will they?

    We’re pretty sure they don’t hand out Super Bowl titles or Hall of Fame busts based on style points.

    But given the poise, leadership, and physical ability we saw out of Carr last season – and now that he’s surrounded by legit offensive weapons – many of us would lay good money that he’s going to take a big step up in 2015. Regardless of what some dry, dusty numbers churned out and regurgitated by a few equally dry and dusty ESPN writers might believe.

    Next: Raiders vs. AFC West: Linebackers