Winning was something the Raiders seemed like they were going to start doing a lot more of in 2016 before it all came crashing back down last season. The key to both their winning and losing ways was, not surprisingly, quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr put the team on his back in 2016 – his first as an NFL player with the same offensive coordinator two years in a row – and led them to 12 wins, many the come-from-behind variety, and most of those (7) with game-winning drive he orchestrated. He was feeling good about the offense and was in complete control of it.
A change at OC from Bill Musgrave to Todd Downing last year pulled the rug out from under him and the Raiders tumbled to a 6-10 season.
Jared Cook came to the Raiders last season. He was in Green Bay making clutch catches for Aaron Rodgers while Carr was having his breakout season. So his experience with Carr was only during last year’s debacle.
What he sees is a rejuvenated and re-energized Derek Carr. A quarterback who is being challenged again and responding positively to that challenge.
“Derek looks like a completely different person in my eyes, just from the way he’s attacking the game. From the way he’s attacking the challenges that Gruden has been giving to him,” said Cook. “Every time that Gruden asks him a question, he gets it right, no hesitation. Every time Gruden asks him to get up in front of a meeting room and call out a play, run a play, get to the right check, get to the right audible, he does it every time. That’s a responsibility that Derek never had last year. You see a totally different player out of him. He’s attacking the game differently mentally and he has a totally different attitude going in to this year.”
If you have been watching Carr in practice all offseason and through the first week of training camp, this is not the least bit surprising. I have seen nothing but complete control of the offense from Carr. He is an extension of Gruden. He knows every play and where all of his guys are to be aligned. It’s really something. Then again, the mental side of football has never been an issue for Derek. He has been in NFL film rooms since he was 12 years old with his brother David having played in the league.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Gruden said of Carr on the first day of camp. “He’s special, that’s all I’ll say. I’ll let him speak on that. I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve worked with a lot of really great quarterbacks in the past, but this guy is as into football as any guy I’ve met. He is talented and smart.”
This is not some ‘Rah, Rah’ stuff here. Not from me, not from Cook, and not from Gruden. If Carr was not up to speed, Gruden would say so. Cook is likewise not one to say things he doesn’t mean and tends to display rare candor. And I can only say based on my observations, they tell no lies. This is not the same QB we saw last year. I don’t need to tell you that’s a very good thing.