Raiders: It’s time to move on from Derek Carr

Raiders (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) /

After Sunday’s 40-9 thrashing by the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders offense has put up 12 points across two weeks. Could Derek Carr ultimately be what’s holding the team back?

At one point this season, it seemed that the Oakland Raiders were outplaying the expectations placed upon them.

All that seemed to go wrong in the offseason quickly became old news. Josh Jacobs established himself faster than anyone had imagined. Jon Gruden was doing more than simply making do with the pieces on his roster.

A season that could have easily been written off as a transitional year became a season in which the Raiders found themselves contending — not only for a playoff position, but for the AFC West crown.

Led by their captain under center, Derek Carr, the Raiders marched into Kansas City to attempt and dethrone the Chiefs of their stronghold on the division.

It was Carr’s chance to silence the criticisms that have nagged him throughout the recent stint of his career. It was his opportunity to legitimize the Oakland Raiders’ playoff aspirations, to establish the team as a true contender.

Instead, the team was embarrassed.

The 40-9 beatdown did more than give the Chiefs a commanding two-game lead on the division. It did more than knock the Raiders back down to .500. It did more than temper the remaining expectations for the year.

It served as another grim reminder that Derek Carr is not the long-term answer.

At the surface level, it’s hard to pin the blame squarely on Carr from one week to the next. He’s the master of filling out statistics and playing the percentages on attempts and receptions.

Even on Sunday, Carr’s 222 yards on 20-of-30 passes look fine.

But the reality that it’s not enough to get it done. It hasn’t been when it matters most, and we saw exactly what that means against a divisional rival.

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The Derek Carr of yesteryear — the one who established himself as the ultimate game-winning driver, the comeback artist, and gunslinger when the games were on the line — has found himself shrinking under the pressure of the moment.

A 6-4 Raiders team faced a very beatable New York Jets team last week and put up just a field goal. Carr sat for a portion of the game after posting just 127 yards on 15-of-27 completions. Again, not atrocious across three quarters but certainly not enough.

The excuses for Carr have continuously run dry. Some may have argued that the Jets have been underachievers throughout the season, but they followed up their romping of the Raiders by getting checked by the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals.

That isn’t a good look for Oakland.

In his latest showing, Carr coughed up two interceptions and nearly turned the ball over a third time thanks to a fumble. He quickly led his team deep into a 21-0 deficit against the Chiefs.

Carr was invisible for the majority of the game. Before his single touchdown drive in garbage time, Carr had completed exactly one throw to his wide receivers.

Sure, the interceptions were the result of some impressive route-jumping. Maybe it was the chilly weather that played a role in limiting his game. But does Carr deserve the benefit of the doubt?

The answer to that, at some point, has to be no.

Sooner or later, Raider Nation will have to come to terms with the reality that Derek Carr is not the player that can lead the team to victory when it matters most.

Despite the Raiders being in some stage of a transition, they are still equipped with enough of a run game, enough of a coaching staff, and enough of an overall roster to elevate a quarterback like Carr.

But he has remained mediocre. He has remained the fairly limited, completely okay-and-nothing-more quarterback that shows just enough flashes of brilliance to make fans want to defend him.

As time goes on and the excuses continue to pile up, the reality must set in that Derek Carr is making over $22 million this season. He is under contract for three years after this season.

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The Raiders will have to make a choice on what they want to do with Carr moving forward, but that choice becomes more and more clear as he fails to maintain composure — or even show grit — in games like the last two weeks.

He has not demonstrated that he is worth the $21.5 million cap hit that he’s slated for next season.

Instead, he’s shown that he cannot lead his team to victory whether it’s in a situation where his squad is favored, or he’s expected to silence any doubters. He is not worth that kind of money.

If the Raiders choose to cut or trade him during the offseason, they will take only a dead cap hit of $5 million.

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That’s $5 million to start over with a new leader under center — with someone who can be groomed to fit quarterback guru Jon Gruden’s play-calling.

With each remaining year on Derek Carr’s contract, the front office will be tempted by the shrinking cost of dead money in the hypothetical where they cut or trade Carr. Next year it will cost $5 million. The year after, just half that.

In 2022, it will cost them nothing.

Derek Carr is not an awful quarterback — this issue is not that definitive. The focus, instead, has to be on his limitations. Does he compare to the other quarterbacks in the league making the same kind of money that he does?

Perhaps this is the lowest two-week span of Carr’s 2019 season. Perhaps the Raiders have more surprises in store for the remainder of the year. But these past two losses have jolted the franchise back to reality.

And a simple question must be asked if it hasn’t been asked already: Just how valuable is Derek Carr to this team?

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The answer becomes clearer with each passing week.