This offseason, the Raiders made a somewhat controversial decision to not bring back offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and promote quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to the offensive coordinator position.
The controversy was because the Raiders had one of the league’s top offenses. Letting the offensive coordinator of that offense leave was therefore a bit of a stunner.
It soon became apparent just what the thinking was inside the Raiders staff. Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing was seen as a hot commodity as an offensive coordinator by teams looking to fill a vacancy there and the Raiders had to make a decision. They opted for the up and comer Downing rather than risk losing him and disrupting the relationship he had with fourth year star quarterback Derek Carr.
No one is closer to Derek Carr than his brother David, who is a former NFL quarterback himself and current analyst for the NFL Network.
David said in his talks with Derek that he gives Downing a great deal of the credit for the team’s red zone efficiency, which has been in the top ten in the NFL at around 60% over the past two seasons.
"He and Downing have an incredible relationship, they talk every day on the phone, game-plan wise,” Carr said in an interview on 95.7 The Game Saturday. “He was really the in-between guy. Derek would give ideas, Downing would take them to Musgrave, and then if they got through, they got through, if they didn’t, then they just didn’t get through. I think now you kind of eliminate that gap. It’s going to be good. They’re not going to miss a beat."
Not missing a beat is the key here. The worst thing the Raiders could have done was to bring in a new coordinator and disrupt the progress Derek has made and the offense that has hit its stride.
“Downing is going to do a fantastic job,” David Carr said. “Musgrave, as good as he was, sometimes, I’ve been around him, there’s just old-style thinking. Derek has been in such a place, especially now, at this point in his career, it’s time for some more flexibility and to let him just take ownership of this thing. That’s hard for some coordinators. I was with Kevin Gilbride in New York, and it was hard for him to even let Eli Manning, who is an absolute master at the line of scrimmage, to give him the freedom to do that. And so I think some guys are like that. Musgrave is that way. He wanted to give Derek freedom but, at the same time, [he’s] been doing this for 20 years, [he has] a certain way of doing things. So, I think you’ll see more freedom from Derek at the line of scrimmage and flexibility there.”
Derek was on his way to his second Pro Bowl and just a few yards from surpassing 4000 yards passing on the year when he broke his fibula in week 16 against the Colts. It derailed a breakout season that had the Raiders heading to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years and looking to make a serious run at a championship.
The Raiders’ window is just opening and if Downing and Carr can keep the offense clicking while the team bulks of the defense, we could be looking at a very special team for a good long time.