The Raiders got their third win of the season on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they have been playing at a high level for the last month, which includes two wins over Arizona and Pittsburgh and two losses against Baltimore and Kansas City where the team played very well. A big part of the Raiders’ fine play has been the resurgence of quarterback Derek Carr, who seems to have left 2017 behind him and reverted to his excellent form of 2016.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden was asked about a conversation he had with Carr earlier in the year, where he expressed to Carr about executing and not caring about stats.
“You know, he tries to do everything you ask him to do and he wants to do it by the book – read this play like that, go through this footwork – he really wants to do it by the book. I probably, I felt maybe I inhibited him. Free yourself, free yourself from me, free your mind, trust your instincts and go play. Don’t overthink these plays, don’t overthink these situations. I just didn’t want to paralyze him with too many thoughts. I just wanted him to relax, go play and trust his instincts and his abilities and trust his preparation and that’s what he’s done,” said Gruden.
Gruden was then asked if he’s had to learn not to inhibit his players.
“Yeah, I bother people as you know. I try not to, I just want to win. I want to compete, I want to prepare, I want to overprepare. I want a contingency plan for if the plan doesn’t work. So, I have tendencies sometimes to maybe drive a guy crazy, yeah.”
Whether Derek Carr has freed himself from any inhibitions imposed by Gruden, real or perceived, no one can argue with the results he’s been putting up in recent weeks. Carr has not thrown an interception since Week 5 at the Chargers, and three of his last four games have seen Carr put up passer ratings over 100. He led the game-winning drive against the Steelers like he had done many times in 2016, when he was considered one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.
Despite the fact that Carr has few receiving weapons at his disposal and a patchwork offensive line protecting him, he is exhibiting a greater mastery of Gruden’s offense in recent weeks and putting up numbers commensurate with being more comfortable in the game plan. Statistically, Carr’s worst game this year was the first one against the Rams, so perhaps early on it was necessary for Gruden to limit what Carr could do within the offense, but at this point Carr is playing free and easy, knowing exactly what he is doing.
Gruden and Carr are both perfectionists who will not rest until everything to do with the Raider offense is as good as it can get. It has taken some time, but the team seems to be rounding into form and giving hope for the future that the partnership between coach and quarterback can lead the Raiders back to greatness.