Derek Carr: Why Pump The Brakes On A Legitimate MVP Candidate?

Nov 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after the Raiders defeated the Carolina Panthers 35-32 at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after the Raiders defeated the Carolina Panthers 35-32 at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Derek Carr is having a breakout season for the Oakland Raiders and has them poised for their first playoff berth in more than a decade – so why should we pump the brakes on talk of him winning an MVP award?

Oakland Raiders third year quarterback Derek Carr is having an outstanding season. He’s a major reason this Raiders team currently sits at 9-2 on the year and is poised to end a postseason drought that stretches all the way back to 2003. The last time the Raiders sniffed the postseason, Spider-Man was topping the box office and George Lucas was still ruining the Star Wars franchise with those horrid prequels.

Naturally, the resurgence of the Raiders has many talking about Carr as a serious MVP contender this season.Unless of course, you’re Mark Purdy of the Mercury News. Despite putting up legitimate MVP credentials, Purdy would like us all to, “pump the brakes on this Carr.”

Clever. See what he did there?

To hear Purdy tell it, because of Carr’s age (25) and the history of the award, we should all cease and desist with all of the MVP chatter. After all, as Purdy points out, San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana didn’t win his first MVP award until he was the ripe old age of 33.

The question we should all be asking in reply to that little nugget of trivia is – so what?

Purdy goes on to point out that only two quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have been named the MVP at Carr’s age or younger. One is Dan Marino who won the award at 23, and Bert Jones who won it at 25. Outside of that, in Purdy’s worldview, only those longer in the tooth should be considered for the award.

"“But in the world’s toughest football league, it almost always takes time and seasoning to be recognized as the best in the game at your position and most outstanding player overall.”"

While that view isn’t without some shred of merit, it’s also not without its share of problems as well. One would have to wonder – would Purdy object to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott winning the award? A case can certainly be made for his candidacy.

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Or does Purdy believe that somebody older, more “seasoned” like Atlanta’s Matt Ryan should win the award by virtue of him being – well – older and more seasoned? And how would his viewpoint change if Atlanta can’t win the horrendously bad NFC South and misses the playoffs altogether? Would Ryan, by virtue of putting up some big numbers – and oh yeah, being older – still be the league’s MVP?

The idea that Carr isn’t worthy of being considered for the award simply because he’s young – and oh gee, it wouldn’t be “fair to history” — is, frankly put, ridiculous. What makes age the determining factor in deciding who the most valuable player in the league should be?

The game has changed and evoloved quite a bit since the days of Marino and Montana. Quarterbacks today are being asked to do quite a bit more than quarterbacks of the past. Offensive – and defensive — schemes are far more complex and quarterbacks are asked to recognize them all. They’re also throwing quite a bit more today than they have in the past.

The game has changed. Antiquated views about who should and shouldn’t be considered for an MVP award should too.

The real criteria for determining the most valuable player should be – well – their value. Is Elliott worthy? Yes. Is Ryan worthy? Yes. Is even Tom Brady worthy? As much as it pains some of us to admit – yes.

Although, the caveat that should be applied to Brady’s candidacy is the fact that he did miss four games and the Patriots went 3-1 without him. Which, to a logical mind, would suggest that he’s not necessarily the most valuable player at his position or in the league.

Carr still has much to learn. Much more room to grow. On those points, Purdy is correct.

"“But some of the flaws Carr showed in those first two seasons do show up from time to time. He still makes the occasional “oh-no” throw, as happened against Houston in Mexico City when Carr was picked off on a late pass attempt over the middle when he should have thrown the ball away. He often tries to fit the ball into spots that are risky.”"

You can’t really argue with Purdy on that. However, three time NFL MVP and Hall of Famer Brett Favre made a career out of doing just those things. This is not to compare Carr to Favre, it is simply to say that whether the player is 25 or 35, there will always be things to learn and room to grow.

The great ones never stop learning and never stop growing. That’s what makes them – well – great.

Carr’s confidence and competitiveness – not to mention his devout belief in his receivers – likely leads him to attempt some throws that might be ill advised from time to time. But the number of those throws has dropped tremendously from his rookie season to now. For the most part, Carr looks like a seasoned pro out on the field. He’s smart with the ball, takes fewer bad chances, and usually makes the right throw.

Nobody with half a brain is “rushing Carr to the Hall of Fame bust carving studio,” as Purdy suggests. Nobody is saying with any seriousness that he’s surely Canton-bound. He’s got a long way to go and a lot to prove just yet. And most everybody knows that.

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But we also know that he’s in the midst of a special season. He’s in the top five in a lot of major statistical categories, he’s led five fourth-quarter comebacks, and he has this Raiders team on top of the AFC West and primed for a playoff spot for the first time in a long, long time.
While nobody is measuring him for his Hall of Fame jacket, we are simply insisting that he be strongly considered for recognition of his tremendous achievements.

There are half a dozen players who are very worthy of consideration for the NFL’s MVP award. Any one of them can win it and nobody would bat an eye. But regardless of his age or the “fairness” to history, Carr must be included among them. He’s distinguished himself this season and continues to make plays week in and week out.

If Carr can lead this team to an AFC West title — and perhaps even win a playoff game, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever – not even his age – that he should not be strongly considered for the MVP award.

The only brakes that need to be pumped are on outdated, antiquated views about age and its place in today’s NFL.