Early in his career, Derek Carr was hesitant to go out and boss his teammates around. That was understandable. He was a rookie. He felt he needed to earn his way in. And he eventually did. By 2016, he appeared to have become the leader the team needed him to be. Then this past season, it all came crashing down.
There were rumors and reports throughout the season suggesting that the there were problems in the locker room where once there seemed to be tranquility. Carr wasn’t the same on the field, and it was clearly mental. He just didn’t trust anything he saw. He didn’t trust his receivers, he didn’t trust his protection, and he didn’t seem to trust his own abilities.
His problems were symptomatic of those of the entire team. Whether it was his broken leg at the end of the 2016 season, his new coordinator for last season, or the fracture in his back he suffered in week four against the Broncos; he was a wreck.
He wasn’t alone, though. In fact, you could say the team fell off simply because he was unable to save them as he had the previous season. And it’s not fair to him to expect him to always be their savior.
Speaking of savior; Jon Gruden.
That’s how Mark Davis has always viewed him and the Raiders tumble along with his agreeing to return to coach the team is what precipitated the overhaul of the staff.
Among that overhaul is the rumored return of Rich Gannon to Oakland as Gruden’s QB coach. With Gruden still not official, Gannon’s return is certainly not for certain. Though if you hear him talk, as well as how his CBS colleague Kevin Harlan talk about it, you might be convinced he’s coming.
Even without knowing for sure if Gannon is the guy, he has a lot of ideas of what Derek Carr needs to do to be great.
In his weekly appearance on Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game, he said how he would go about ‘fixing’ Derek Carr. He spoke of what he would want Carr to fix, of course, from a fundamentals standpoint. But he went even farther, and talked about him from a personality standpoint. That’s when it got really interesting.
Gannon called the Raiders final game of the season in Los Angeles against the Chargers, so he was able to meet with Carr Saturday night where he had a lot to say to Carr.
“It was more give than take,” Gannon said of the talk with Carr. “I really care for him, I just think he’s a great young man and he’s a talented player. I just really want to see him take advantage of any opportunity. I just said to him that I really believe you’ve gotta be more demanding of your teammates and you’ve got to hold them to a higher standard.”
All of us who watched Gannon know just how fiery he was as a player. He knew what he wanted from his offense and made sure he got it or held his players accountable if he didn’t. And we’re talking about a guy whose receivers were Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Carr has no such receivers on this team.
“You can sense some frustration from Derek when you just watch the game,” Gannon continued. . . “They don’t have execution, they don’t have the precision and the attention to detail. And he talked about that at great length in the meeting. I said ‘Well, if it isn’t the way you want it, you need to fix it,’ and that means the head coach, the quarterback coach, the coordinator, the offensive line coach, you’re the captain of the ship and you gotta make sure that it’s just the way you want it.
“I told him, I said ‘look, you know, you go to practices with Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady... if it’s not exactly the way they want it, they make the correction. They don’t wait on the coaches to make the correction.’
Carr has shown passion at times and he has been angry at times. But holding his players accountable, especially in the moment, has never been his thing. When asked about it, he always defaults to the idea that they don’t need him to tell them that. They know. That’s not going to cut it for Gannon as his booth mate Kevin Harlan said.
“We know that Derek is a wonderful person in every way and is as kind a guy as there is,” Harlan also told 95.7. “But in the NFL kindness only takes you so far. You don’t think Tom Brady runs down and yells at Gronkowski or whoever it is? We see it all the time. These guys don’t put up with it and I think the big question about Derek is is that inside him, is that part of his makeup? Is that what he is? I don’t know that it is. And I think that’s what they’re going to demand and that’s going to be an issue.
“Rich went right at him Saturday night. I mean, he looked at him like he was coaching him and said ‘Can you do that?’ and Derek said ‘I can do that but I’ve gotta do it my way.’ Well, I think for Jon and Rich they think there is only one way. There is no ‘my way’ there is one way to do it.”
Gannon said similar with regard to his doubts Carr has that kind of demeanor in him.
“I don’t think that’s his personality,” Gannon said.
“It’s hard because sometimes you can’t change a person the way they’re wired whether it’s their personality or their demeanor and I just think that all the great ones have a little bit of jerk in them, if you know what I mean. And I’m not saying to be abusive or to embarrass somebody, it’s just a question of saying ‘guys, I’ve got to be able to hold everyone to a certain standard and if it’s not done the way I want it, I’m gonna tell ya’ in no uncertain terms. That’s leadership.”