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Honeymoon over: Sideline spats show Derek Carr and Jon Gruden’s relationship has taken next step

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Oakland Raiders v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Jon Gruden and Derek Carr’s had several sideline spats during the game this past Sunday. Cameras caught on more than one occasion the two were in heated disagreement on how things played out on the field. It was an oddity in the Derek Carr era to see him that animated with his coach, though not such a rarity to see Jon Gruden act like that with his quarterback.

During the first Gruden era in Oakland the fights between he and Rich Gannon were the stuff of legends. They regularly got at each other, yelling on the sidelines and gesturing madly.

Both quarterback and coach seemed to flourish with that relationship. And up to this point we hadn’t seen anything that even closely resembled that fire between Gruden and Carr. We did finally see a flash of it on the sidelines this past Sunday. The result? Carr eventually led the team on a game-winning drive.

Maybe there is a method to Gruden’s madness. Gruden has brushed off the encounter and attributed it to being just the excitement of the game.

“I don’t have a ‘no yelling’ sign on the sideline.” Gruden said at his Monday press conference. “Things happen. We get excited down there. I get excited when we get a first down. Get excited when you work on something all week and it doesn’t work out. I get excited when he makes big plays, too. that’s just part of football. I think cameras can catch things sometimes that maybe make things look a little bit peculiar, but that happens.”

There is clearly some classic Gruden spin going on there, because it didn’t look peculiar at all. It looked exactly like what it was; a disagreement between the QB and the head coach. Regardless, whatever the disagreement was about seemed to do the job because Carr looked the part when the game was on the line. They may not have agreed about the topic, but the message got through. Even if it may have taken Gruden changing tactics to do it.

“I’m a big cheerleader sometimes. I’m very positive a lot of the time. every once in awhile, I think you have to make your points in some different ways.” Gruden said about the animated conversation with his QB. “Sometimes raising your voice… I look ridiculous to some people, but I want urgency. I want to have some urgency to get things right. It doesn’t mean I’m always right, either. Derek pointed that out to me yesterday. So be it.”

The two of them are lucky to have had this happen in a win, because if it was the headline of another embarrassing loss you know it would be talked about in the most negative light possible. Instead, it happened during a win and the two were able to leave it as water under the bridge.

Even if it had it happened in a loss though, it still would have been a necessary part in the evolution of this particular coach’s relationship with his signal caller.

If there was never any fire between these two, that would be far more concerning. Gruden is a very demanding coach and his offense demands attention to every detail. When those details are neglected, he lets you know about it. It’s something that quarterbacks have talked about with Gruden throughout his career, he gnaws his QB’s down to the bone and if they can’t take it he moves on.

You saw it with Gannon, you saw it in Tampa with Brad Johnson and especially with Chris Simms when you hear about Gruden nagging him to the point that he cut his honeymoon short to get back to work. Gruden’s style is clear, he beats on you until you either break or learn to do it the way he is telling you to do it.

This could actually be a great sign for Derek Carr and his future with Gruden. If he isn’t willing to fight for what he believes in and to have these back and forth moments with Gruden then he isn’t the guy that is meant to lead Gruden’s team. The QB and the coach have to feed off of each other, and in Gruden’s case that means fighting from time to time.

Everyone knew this to be Gruden’s coaching style. The question since day one of his return to coach the Raiders has been whether Derek Carr will be able to withstand it long term.

The two have gushed about each other since first starting to work together, but is Carr really going to be able to thrive under the heavy criticism from Gruden? According to the coach, things have been good so far. Now it’s all about raising the standards for Carr and for the players around him too.

“A lot of my criticism is constructive criticism,” Gruden continued. “I think he has the ability, I tell him, to complete every pass he throws. I mean that. He’s got that kind of arm talent and I am going to continue to raise the standards for him. I thought he threw a fly ball yesterday to Jalen Richard, I thought it landed out of the end zone and I let him know about it, that he was out of bounds. I just think he’s got as good an arm talent as there is and I want to try and hold him to those standards. I think deep down somewhere, he appreciates that. As we continue to get better around him, with our pass protection, if we can ever get some continuity at wide receiver it’d be nice. I think he has got a chance to really be special.”

The rest of the season will still go a long way in showing whether we should have confidence in this duo working out in the long term. Carr passed the first test of this evolution of their relationship by leading the Raiders on their game winning drive this past Sunday against the Cardinals. More of that would go a long way to regaining his 2016 status as a top QB in this league.