Watching Derek Carr in 2017, the last thing I would say he looked was comfortable. After the first two games of the season, starting in Washington in week three, he looked downright terrified of his own shadow. But that was on the field during the season. Where he relaxed was in his preparation, according to Sports Illustrated’s, Albert Breer.
“There was a feeling that, following the firing of former coordinator Bill Musgrave, he got too comfortable, because he was too close to Musgrave’s replacement, Todd Downing. Let’s just say that Jon Gruden and his staff know that, and it’s already apparent that Carr is going to be coached hard in 2018.”
It sounds like with the success he had in 2016, and the partial continuity of having his former QB coach now as his offensive coordinator, he had this. Cruise control.
That came tumbling down in week three and he would never fully recover. Breer also said the Raiders believe the back injury Carr suffered contributed to his poor play. The problem with using that as an excuse is 1) the back injury didn’t occur until week four. and 2) If the back was the issue, Carr’s big game against the Chiefs in week 7 should have been the end of it. And it wasn’t. It simply ended a 4-game slide. The Raiders then went to Buffalo and got creamed by the Bills.
Carr has said since Gruden came onboard that he wants the old ball coach to be tough on him and to push him.
“Some of my best years I’ve had, not just in the NFL but in college, were with coaches that were extremely tough on me and extremely demanding,” Carr said in January. “For me that’s nothing, that’s easy. That’s where I thrive. . . We’re going to have a great relationship, we’re going to be hard on one another, pushing each other to be better, and that’s how it should be.”
That’s good, because that’s what he’s getting as Breer continued..
The best news? Where there was some question as to how Carr would respond, the fifth-year quarterback has identified with Gruden’s passion for football and is enthusiastic about the pushing and prodding he’s gotten from his new coaches, including coordinator Greg Olson and position coach Brian Callahan. And that group believes, based on what’s on tape, that they’re working with a special talent.
The final way Breer says Carr benefits from Gruden is no longer being the face of the franchise. He can step behind the personality of Gruden and the larger than life Monday Night Football, ‘Chucky’ sneering soundbite machine.
To me, all this sets up for a pretty fascinating year in Oakland. A year ago, Carr was seen as having a chance to ascend into the league’s upper echelon at his position and was being positioned by the organization as the face of the franchise. Now, he’s working his way back after a difficult 2017, and Gruden has wrested the spotlight from him, all of which could help him rebound.