Oakland Raiders: One crazy theory about the QB situation moving forward

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 28: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after a play against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 28, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 28: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after a play against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 28, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders are a team in a state of flux at the moment with a rebuild in full effect – here’s one crazy theory about the QB situation moving forward.

Oakland Raiders head coach and current god-like figure Jon Gruden, has made it clear that he’s the man in charge, and the man with the plan. After months of obfuscation, his plan is finally becoming clear – burn it all down, and start over from square one.

Coming in for his second tour of duty, to much hype, fanfare, and excitement, Gruden spoke glowingly about winning now, and bringing a title back to Oakland before the franchise departs for Sin City.

Unfortunately for us all, Gruden wasn’t exactly being truthful about his intentions from the start. While some questioned his grip on sanity – and the modern NFL game – after watching him bring in veteran player, after veteran player this offseason, many were willing to trust the plan, and give him the benefit of the doubt.

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After all, Gruden’s MO has always been to bring in veterans to lead the team, while sprinkling in the rookies and younger players for flavor and added punch.

But, when we watched him ship out blue-chip players like Khalil Mack, and then Amari Cooper – players Gruden himself insisted was a part of the organization’s future, and cornerstone pieces of the team – suddenly, the plan didn’t seem so clear. Or viable.

In fact, the plan, as it’s been revealed to us over the months – and the mounting losses of yet another lost season – was a complete scorched earth, burn it to the ground, then rebuild. And it seems more than obvious, that was Gruden’s intention from the jump.

You can’t fault him necessarily for wanting to reshape this team. After all, despite being a club that went 12-4 and made the playoffs as recently as 2016 – their first playoff appearance since around the Bronze Age – this was a team that had a ton of deficiencies and holes on the roster. This was a team with a lot of weaknesses.

For all the credit GM Reggie McKenzie gets for hauling in a draft class (back in 2014) that netted him Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and Gabe Jackson, he doesn’t get – at least, not lately – the scorn and derision he’s earned for not stocking the roster with competent players pretty much every other year of a tenure that began in 2012.

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And now that the team is in full burn it down, to build it back up again mode, there are more questions, rumors, storylines, machinations, drama, and innuendo, than you’ll find on your average daytime soap opera.

And one of the biggest questions hovering over the entire Raider Nation these days is the status of Carr moving forward.

Oh, in the short term – as in for the rest of this season – Carr will be the starting quarterback, barring injury, of course. The question moving forward though is, whether or not he will remain the starting quarterback even next season.

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Conventional wisdom would suggest that Carr gets one more year to prove himself. His debut season in Gruden’s offensive system has been less than stellar – to say the least. The first six games of his maiden voyage aboard the USS Gruden have been absolutely nothing to write home about, and make that 2016 near-MVP campaign seem like the outlier of his still young career.

Still, we’ve seen signs of life from Carr here and there this season. His performance against Cleveland, for instance – Oakland’s only win this year – was stellar. Carr completed 60 percent of his passes (35/58) for 426 yards, and threw four touchdowns – and two interceptions – in leading Oakland to a 45-42 overtime win.

Against the Colts last week, he had what is probably his finest performance of the season. He carved up the Indianapolis defense, to the tune of a 75 percent completion rate (21/28) – making 17 straight completions at one point – for 244 yards, three touchdowns, and a 136.6 QB rating.

Unfortunately, as has been the case for much of Carr’s career, the defense was an abomination, surrendering 461 yards of total offense, and 42 points – 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter – in a 42-28 blowout loss.

However, those two games, as fine as they were, are the exceptions, rather than the rule, to Carr’s season thus far. In the other five games he’s started, he’s often looked skittish, uncomfortable, and made very poor decisions with the football.

Yes, he’s taken a lot of sacks back there, but even when there’s been little to no pressure, Carr has looked less like that 2016 MVP candidate, and more like the second coming of JaMarcus Russell.

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders /

Las Vegas Raiders

All of which begs the question – will Carr even be around in 2019?

Though Gruden continues to give Carr vote of confidence, after vote of confidence, and speak in glowing terms about him being the future of the franchise at the position, one of the unintended consequences of Gruden’s summer (and fall) of misdirection, and obfuscation, is simply that – we don’t believe anything that falls out of his mouth anymore.

More importantly, neither does his team.

There are as many reasons to believe that Gruden will jettison Carr after this season, as there are reasons to think he’ll keep him. And one of the most compelling reasons to think that Gruden will send Carr packing is simple – money.

Yes, the team will incur a $7.5 million dollar dead cap hit if they release him – however, they’ll save $15 million under the cap in the process. And if there’s one thing Gruden has made abudantly clear, it’s that he’s building up a warchest of money, and draft picks, and will be aggressive in reshaping the structure of this team.

With three first-rounders in the 2019 Draft (and two first-rounders in 2020), as well as cap room that’s nearing the $100 million dollar mark for the coming offseason, Gruden is going to have plenty of resources to build his dream team.

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So, if he does end up cutting ties with Carr, where does the franchise go for a quarterback? One option is obviously, already on the roster in A.J. McCarron. It’s entirely possible they keep him around in 2019, maybe to be the starter, but maybe to be the “break glass only in case of emergency” option. McCarron is largely untested, and something of an unknown quantity – yet, Gruden seems fairly high on him.

Another option to consider – and this is where this particular theory gets a little while, so strap on that tin-foil hat, and buckle up tight – is current Buccaneers starter, and 2019 unrestricted free agent to be, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

We all know that Gruden loves his veteran quarterbacks. What’s more, we know that he loves veteran quarterbacks who are entirely cerebral, and can play the position instinctively – a la Rich Gannon. And, if there is one word that perfectly describes Fitzpatrick, it’s cerebral.

Much like Gannon, Fitzpatrick is a well traveled veteran who’s been effective over the course of his long career. And right now, the 35-year old Fitzpatrick is playing some outstanding football – head and shoulders above the much younger Carr.

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  • Playing in place of the suspended, and then benched Jameis Winston down in Tampa Bay, Fitzpatrick has completed 68 percent of his passes (98/144), for 1.550 yards, 13 touchdowns, against just five interceptions, for a QB rating of 119.3. He’s also taken just eight sacks behind a line that’s even creakier than Oakland’s in his five total appearances – four of those, being starts.

    Fitzpatrick has been cool, calm, and collected in helping keep his team in most every ballgame, and has made some outstanding throws. He’s been unafraid in the pocket, and will hang in until the last possible moment, rather than checking down in the blink of an eye.

    Though Tampa Bay is going to have plenty of quarterback questions themselves once the season ends – and will likely be trying to retain Fitzpatrick’s services – Gruden could possibly opt to take a run at him. And he may even do it if he decides to keep Carr anyway – you just never know with that guy.

    The theory – as outlandish as it might seem at this point – does make a certain sort of sense, if you stop and think about it. Fitzpatrick, as good as he’s been, isn’t an elite quarterback. He’s not going to command top dollar – he is making just over $3 million this season with the Bucs.

    Though, if Tampa Bay cuts bait on Winston, and engages in a bidding war for Fitzpatrick’s services, it could artificially inflate his price tag. It’s clear though, that at this stage of his career, he isn’t going to command Matt Ryan, or Kirk Cousins type money. He’s not even going to command Derek Carr type money.

    Being able to get a solid, established veteran relatively inexpensively, has got to intrigue Gruden. If you then factor in the surplus of first-round draft picks he’s got in his pocket, you can then see him taking a quarterback he personally likes, who can sit the bench and be groomed behind the veteran for a season.

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    Of course, this is simply idle speculation, at the moment. It’s a matter of trying to crack the code, decipher the clues, and read the tea leaves to determine what’s going to happen with the franchise moving forward.

    Crazy and entirely outlandish? Yeah, maybe. But, given the unpredictability of Gruden this year, you can’t simply dismiss the idea out of hand. Nothing seems to be too crazy, or too outlandish to consider with Gruden in full rebuild mode, a huge wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket, and plenty of draft picks at his disposal.

    Given the turmoil and uncertainty the franchise has endured this year, and for all of the reasons mentioned just above, this should be one interesting offseason.