HENDERSON, NV – The face of any NFL franchise is the quarterback. He is celebrated in good times and criticized in the down times. That’s the nature of the position.
Such is the plight of Derek Carr, who quarterbacked the Las Vegas Raiders into playoff contention the first half of the 2020 season with a 6-3 start only to see those hopes dissolve with a 2-5 finish.
Raider Maven has been a supporter of Derek Carr, so we reached out to multiple team management members and found three who agreed to share their thoughts anonymously about the Las Vegas quarterback.
“I have been in this business a long time,” the first NFL general manager said. “That is why I can understand the criticism thrown at Derek Carr -- but it doesn’t make it right. Derek Carr wins ball games, he doesn’t lose them for Jon (Gruden) and I don’t think there is any doubt he is a Top 10-caliber quarterback.”
Carr finished 10th in the NFL in passing this season with a career-best 101.4 efficiency rating. He passed for 4,103 yards with 27 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He threw three touchdowns apiece against Kansas City and New Orleans this season in engineering upsets over both Super Bowl contenders.
“Derek is guilty of being a good quarterback on a team with a bad defense,” the second NFL general manager said. “Give him a decent defense and the Raiders are an entirely different team.”
But Carr doesn’t play defense – and that’s where the criticism should be focused on the Raiders.
Only seven teams allowed more yards than Las Vegas last season and only two allowed more points. Carr led an offense that finished 10th in the NFL in scoring with 434 points, an average of 27.1 points per game. But the Raiders were allowing 29.8 points per game.
“Let’s not pretend he has had great players surrounding him,” the third NFL general manager said. “I remember the talk of him being an MVP when he had players around him. He has those weapons on offense now, but that defense is not good.”
Rick Gosselin, who has covered the NFL for 49 years and has been a Hall of Fame voter based in Dallas for 25 years, compared Carr to another vastly-underrated NFL quarterback.
“I think Derek is the Phil Simms of his era,” Gosselin told Raider Maven. “He has all of the tools that made Phil a terrific quarterback, but he doesn’t have Phil’s defense.”
So Raider Maven asked the three general managers about the Carr-Simms comparison.
“Rick nailed it,” the first GM said. “I agree with that comparison. The biggest difference is that Bill (Parcells) built an elite defense around Phil and the Raiders haven’t.”
The second general manager took it a step further.
“I think Derek is a superior QB with his decision making than Phil…but without the defense,” he said. “Phil had the privilege of a defense that when he was able to take some risks, they could bail him out. Derek’s defense doesn’t bail him out at all, that is why he can’t take as many (chances) unless it is late in the game.”
It’s clear – you can’t assess Derek Carr without defense coming up in the conversation.
“I like comparing Derek to Phil,” the third GM said, “but having had a good view of Phil, I think Derek may be a better quarterback. Both guys were loved by their teammates and solid off the field. Neither guy cost their team's ball games, but Phil slept good at night because of that amazing defense.
“I’m not sure if I was Derek if I could sleep knowing I had to make no mistakes and over-perform in order to win.”
Football is a team game. While Derek Carr is a quality quarterback, respected by the men he competes against, he can’t be expected to have Phil Simms results with this defense.
Raider fans now clamoring for Deshaun Watson forget that in the same predicament as Carr in 2020 – good-not-great weapons around him on offense and a woeful defense – he managed to win only four games with the Texans last season.
The problem with the Raiders is defense, not quarterback. That needs to be the focal point this offseason for general manager Mike Mayock. Fix the defense and Carr will look even better taking the snaps for the Raiders.
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