Quarterback Derek Carr has taken more than his share of unwarranted criticism from fans of the Oakland-Las Vegas Raiders frustrated by the team’s lack of success in recent seasons, and he has handled it like a pro.
However, Carr was concerned about what one longtime fan of the Silver and Black would think after he broke Kenny “Snake” Stabler’s franchise records for career passing yards and touchdown passes the last two seasons.
“I don’t know if anyone loves (Stabler) as much as my dad, to be honest with you,” Carr said after he passed the Hall of Famer in career passing yards in 2019. “I don’t know if my dad is happy or sad. We’ll see.
“ … That’s all I have been hearing about from my dad growing up, hearing only about Stabler. (Breaking Snake’s records) was surreal for him and for me. The one thing I regret is never meeting him. With that being said, it is something I’m trying to do with respect and honor. I know of his greatness as a football player.”
Carr might not have met Stabler, but Snake saw him play early in his Raiders career and told this reporter: “I like what I see of Derek Carr and think he’s going to do big things for the Raiders.”
Stabler died of colon cancer at the age of 69 on July 8, 2015, a year before he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The left-handed quarterback, who was selected by Raiders in the second round (No. 52 overall) in the 1968 NFL Draft out of Alabama, finished his career in Oakland with 19,078 yards and 150 touchdowns while compiling a 69-26-1 regular-season record as a starter from 1973-79.
Carr, who grew up in Bakersfield in California’s San Joaquin Valley, was chosen by the Silver and Black in the second round (No. 36 overall) of the 2014 draft out of Fresno State, started as a rookie, and has increased those records to 26,896 yards and 170 touchdowns, but his record is only 47-63.
Not only that, Carr has taken the Raiders to the playoffs only in 2016 with a 12-3 record, but he sustained a broken leg in the next-to-last game of the regular season and missed the Wild Card game in which the Houston Texans defeated the Raiders.
It’s been said often that the quarterback gets more of the credit than he deserves when a team is winning and more of the blame during downtimes, and the latter has certainly been the case with Carr when it comes to his standing with some Raiders fans.
In comparing his supporting cast with Stabler’s there really is no comparison, since Snake was surrounded by future Hall of Famers such as Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Jim Otto, Fred Biletnikoff, and Dave Casper on offense, in addition to Willie Brown and Ted Hendricks on defense, and punter Ray Guy.
The Raiders seemed to be headed for the playoffs last season with a 6-3 start but lost five of their last seven games to finish at 8-8, with the defense deserving much of the blame, but Carr has never pointed the finger at anyone else on his team.
However, Raiders fans, he has had enough.
“I’m sick of losing,” said Carr, who has led the Raiders on 24 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter during his seven-year career. “Working as I do and we do, and going out there and losing ... it sucks.
“I think that’s my message. Enough is enough. I’m tired of it.”
Stabler had a different dilemma during his career, as the Raiders lost three straight AFC Championship Games with Snake at quarterback, to the Miami Dolphins in 1973 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974 and 1975. Those teams all went on to win the Super Bowl.
That doesn’t even count the Immaculate Reception playoff game in 1972, when Stabler came off the bench in the final minutes to run for a go-ahead touchdown in Pittsburgh, only to have Franco Harris score in the final seconds on a play that Raider Nation disputes to this day.
“We developed the tag of a team that couldn’t win the big one,” Stabler said a few years later. “And, I guess we couldn’t. But we knew we were good enough and that one year we were going to get to the Super Bowl—and win.
“We had that tag around our necks and had to get rid of it.”
Stabler and the Raiders did that in 1976, going 13-1 during the regular season, beating the New England Patriots and Steelers in the AFC playoffs before routing the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI.
With a revamped defense, Carr and these Raiders hope their day is coming, too.
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