We know by now that Derek Carr is not one to say things outright or throw anyone under the bus. But now and then, he can say things that seem to have a bit of subtext to them.
Take last week, for instance. Immediately following the team’s loss to the Cowboys, he said something that seemed like a compliment, but then ended up sounding more like a message.
“You know, the fight our team played with today – that was familiar, that looked like us,” Carr said after the close loss to the Cowboys.
Later he was asked at what point he recognized himself in the game, and he quickly responded.
“In the beginning of the season, I felt like me,” said Carr emphatically, going on to say “I definitely – I know who I am.”
Alright, so, he was himself from the start. It must be the rest of the team that hasn’t been quite playing like itself this season, only showing signs of it against the Cowboys. That perspective kind of flies in the face of his platitudes about shouldering the blame when things go wrong.
After the close loss to the Eagles in which is was the defense that kept them in it and the offense that turned the ball over five times, Carr again made what appeared to be a subtle statement. Or in this case, it was a question.
“Well, we can look at the good times that we have had, obviously a year ago, we can look at the hard times we’ve had this year,” Carr said, “and you sit back and you lay out the plan, and you say ‘what was different? . . . What did we do differently? What were changes on the team that somehow, some way we did wrong?”
Ok, so, we’ve already covered that he’s been himself since the opener and has been the same all season. The issue is in what is “different” with the team or their approach. The obvious main difference, which has been pointed to much of the season is the change in offensive coordinator from Bill Musgrave to Todd Downing. That brought new play calling and new schemes.
Carr had hinted at Downing being the issue a few weeks ago when he said — also in a postgame press conference — that he just runs the play that is called. After this loss, Carr would like to reiterate there is never a good time to place blame.
“When things get tough, a lot of people point fingers,” Carr said. “And I’ve tried my best every single time to just stand up here and be a man and just take it. That’s who I am, that’s how I was raised, and I’ll always be that way.”
He is, of course, referring to all the times he has said “Put it on me. I can take it.” Not for anything in particular, just in general, media, put it on him. I guess in lieu of actually analyzing the myriad of issues on this team and trying to seek out a root cause. That usually brings us back to coaching.
Jack Del Rio has grown weary of the questions about Downing and the offensive play calling and is now just refusing to respond to it.
“Look, I know that’s going to be a continuing conversation for us, okay, and I’m just tonight going to talk about we win and lose as a football team,” Del Rio said postgame Monday night.
Downing’s been under fire most of the season and recent reports suggest that he is likely to be fired after the season.
The first-year offensive coordinator does deserve a good deal of blame, but Carr is simply not the same and there’s no way around it. That’s not to say he can’t find his way again, but all season he has not looked comfortable and has not been pushing the ball down the field as he did last season. That too is something Del Rio wouldn’t address, saying he’s not going to “get into trying to do that with our quarterback.”
That’s commendable. After all, if he were to call it out, he’d be ‘throwing him under the bus’ and be ripped for that mercilessly. The questions and the concerns are still valid, especially when Carr’s turnovers have killed this once playoff hopeful team the past three weeks.
At the end of this game, down three points, and with four chances to make a play, Carr didn’t take one shot downfield to try and win it, or even complete a pass underneath in an attempt to get closer to scoring range.
They were in that position in the first place because of the turnovers — both forced and surrendered. The play of the defense had the team tied at 10-10 before Carr’s second interception gave the Eagles the ball in field goal range. Carr would like to — in not so many words — remind the defense that last season the offense bailed them out time and time again, so now and then even the defense’s best performance won’t be enough. And they all suffer the loss together.
“They [the defense] did a good job, but again, it’s a team game, so no one should be feeling good,” said Carr. “We lost. We’ve won a lot of games as a team, but we lost tonight as a team.”
It’s hard to imagine this team improving without someone actually acknowledging the issues the team is having. Most of all that means Carr, Downing, and Del Rio. Pointing fingers isn’t always a bad thing. So long as you also put one in your own chest. Other than a lot of empty words, there hasn’t been much of that in Oakland this season.