The unchallenged starter for the first six years of his career, perhaps some healthy competition in the form of Marcus Mariota can get Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to take his game to the next level.
When the Oakland Raiders selected Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, it was implied that he was going to be the future of the franchise at quarterback. He was not, however, expected to be the starter that season.
Veteran Matt Schaub had been acquired via trade from the Houston Texans in the offseason as a replacement for the departed Terrelle Pryor and was expected to start, with Carr and Matt McGloin serving as his backups.
Those plans quickly took a turn after Carr turned heads in the preseason, leaving then-head coach Dennis Allen with little choice but to give him the nod. The rest, as they say, is history.
Although Carr has set new career highs in passing yards and completion percentage in his two years under head coach Jon Gruden, the numbers haven’t necessarily translated into success.
After a hot start this past season, the Raiders faded down the stretch, losing five of their final six games to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
There has been speculation whether or not Carr will still be the starter or even with the team when they open Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas next season.
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Gruden, who had been supportive of Carr throughout the season, didn’t exactly help matters by being somewhat non-committal when asked about Carr’s future at his final press conference.
While the Raiders can hope to snag Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert among others in the first round of April’s draft, a cheaper, intriguing option may already be available in none other than former Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
While the addition of Mariota may not excite many fans due to his inconsistency, it has been proven time and again that sometimes all a player needs is a change of scenery. For any proof, you wouldn’t have to look much further than the man who replaced Mariota in Tennessee — Ryan Tannehill.
After a mostly mediocre career with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill entered this season as little more than an insurance policy for Mariota. After starting the season 2-4, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel made the decision to bench Mariota and go with Tannehill.
To say the decision has paid dividends would be an understatement, to say the least. Tannehill finished 7-3 as a starter in the regular season and led the Titans to their first AFC Championship Game appearance since 2003, where they faced none other than the Oakland Raiders.
Aside from his rookie year, there has never been a question about Carr’s status as the starter.
McGloin, E.J. Manuel, A.J. McCarron, Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman, and DeShone Kizer have all passed through the quarterback room during Carr’s tenure, and none of them have ever been a serious threat to take the starting job. That in and of itself may be the problem.
While Derek Carr’s work ethic has never come into question, it’s human nature that a lack of competition can lead to complacency. Even if Carr makes a mistake, he’s never had much reason to look over his shoulder.
Marcus Mariota is still only 26-years-old with plenty left in the tank.
The fact he has had five offensive coordinators in his five seasons hasn’t exactly put him in the best position to succeed, and despite that, he still managed to have a winning record in three of his four seasons as the Titans’ full-time starter.
This past season, Gruden implored Carr to use his legs more. Mariota would require no such prodding, seeing as his exploits as a dual-threat quarterback were what made him a star for the Oregon Ducks.
Bringing in Mariota would give Carr a legitimate challenge for the first time in his career.
The resulting competition could either see Derek Carr rise to the occasion or in true Raider fashion, see Marcus Mariota rise from the ashes like a phoenix and ascend to the heights many thought he would when he entered the league.