Derek Carr was never going anywhere in 2019 -- as for 2020, let's wait and see

San Jose Mercury News |

--ALAMEDA -- All the ticking that was supposedly going on around draft time regarding the future of Derek Carr with the Raiders was nonsense, speculation devoid of logic and common sense.

Carr had adapted and learned coach Jon Gruden's system of football well enough that there was no thought given to drafting an immediate replacement. Certainly not after a single season, and under a coach who has no track record of entrusting his offense to a rookie.

Which didn't stop a glut of "Carr is on his way out" speculation, with Gruden either becoming infatuated with the idea of Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins as the man to lead the Raiders in 2019.

Carr has kept quiet on the subject other than taking the bait from ESPN's stir-it-up host Max Kellerman, half-seriously challenging him to a fight on Twitter in late January. Kellerman was pushing for Murray, and opined of Carr, "You can tell when a quarterback doesn't want it . . . I think Gruden knows they have to move on."

It was surprising in that Carr gets the media game better than most. He was able to laugh off reports he'd actually cried on the field when taking a beating in London against Seattle and playfully fends off queries about his ability to throw deep.

Carr was back in midseason form in his first local availability since the end of the 2018 season when asked how he reacted to all the speculation about his hold on the position.

After conversations with Gruden, general manager Mike Mayock and owner Mark Davis, Carr felt he knew what to expect.

"When I watched the draft, there was like a negative 47 percent of a chance they were going to draft (a quarterback) in my mind . . . I'm honestly going to be here a long time," Carr said. "Hope that's OK with you guys, but you've got to get used to me."

One of the most valuable commodities with a Gruden-run offense is time served. Health permitting, Carr in 2020 will quickly become the quarterback with the second most consecutive regular season starts under Gruden . Rich Gannon is atop the list with 48 from 1999 through 2001, followed by Brad Johnson (20) and Brian Griese (16) in Tampa Bay.

Carr had his game stripped down and rebuilt to Gruden's specifications and has been through 16 starts. Given Carr's progress, Gruden had no intention of starting over again with someone new -- let alone a rookie.

A year ago, Carr would go home and stand in front of a mirror practicing play calls, learning the system, and then go on the field hoping to execute it.

"I thought then I felt good, like, 'Oh yeah, I've got this,' " Carr said. "Standing here now, I'm like, 'Oh, my gosh . . . it's like I'm on another planet. This is the second time in my career I'm getting to say the same things back-to-back."

Carr not only speaks Gruden's language (leaving out the profane parts), but said he thinks the way Gruden thinks.

"When he calls a certain play, I know what he wants me to look for and if it's not there, get to this," Carr said. I'm already a step ahead with that. I checked a play today, and he's just sitting back there laughing. We hadn't even talked about it yet. We're on that same page and that's nice."

Gruden has tired of defending Carr, and it's easy to see why. Mild critiques of his quarterback are treated in some quarters as scathing indictments, and the remaining 95 percent of generally positive talk is often disregarded.

Carr passed for 4,049 yards and also had career highs in completion percentage (68.9) and yards per attempt (7.3) while being sacked 51 times on a bad team. Joe Montana in his prime couldn't have won with the 2018 Raiders.

"I think he's pretty well respected as one of the best arm talents in football," Gruden said. "He's a lot more athletic than people think. If we can get some continuity here in this building with the system and supporting cast and improve the defense, I think he can be one of the best. I'm going to hold him to that standard and I think that's what he wants."

Given the improvement in the receiving corps and if the offensive line can protect him, there's every reason to think Carr can attain a level of respect similar to 2016. He was at the time a Most Valuable Player candidate and earned a contract that brings with it additional scrutiny.

Of course, if Carr doesn't reach that level, there are no guarantees he would be the man to lead the Raiders into Las Vegas in 2020. He fully expects to hear exactly that.

"No doubt, right?," Carr said. "Here we go again. Let's just get through this year first, then we'll play that game again. And I'll probably have some fun with it. I'm not going anywhere. This is my team and it will be for however long I want to play."

It seldom works out that way in a year-to-year business, but 2019 belongs to Carr. It always did.


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