I’m going to take a cue from Derek Carr himself: “We’re good! We’re good!”
That’s the lingo the Las Vegas Raiders quarterback often barks out at the line of scrimmage before he takes the snap. And that phrase is so apt for the Silver & Black at this moment. In terms of the signal caller’s relationship with the new regime — thanks in large part to long-term commitment — and the roster building said leadership is doing around him, DC4 and the Raiders are most definitely good with one another.
First came the reunion of Carr and his all-time favorite wide receiver and Fresno State cohort Davante Adams (once only thought to be a fantasy football combo). Then the three-year extension worth up to $121.5 million arrived. The writing was on the wall. You don’t obtain a quarterback’s preferred pass catcher for no reason. There was no need to have Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes detective skills to see the obvious. The contract extension was going to happen. And it did.
Now, the big pieces are in place on offense. The Raiders have their quarterback, unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver to go along with a scintillating tight end Darren Waller, bruising running back Josh Jacobs, and hard-to-cover slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. And the upcoming season is ample time for the Raiders to light up the opposition. The Silver & Black have the makings of a juggernaut offense and should realize said dominance and explosiveness with Carr orchestrating things on the field and Raiders head coach and play caller/designer Josh McDaniels cooking up the Xs and Os in the lab and on the sideline.
The atmosphere and belief in Henderson are palpable. The maneuvers general manager Dave Ziegler, McDaniels and Co. made this offseason and the moves they’ll make in the draft and further down the line, point to one thing: Just Win, Baby.
“I don’t want to waste any time. I don’t want to build. I want to win,” Carr said during his contract extension press conference. “They made it very, very clear to me that we’re not coming just to build something. Like, ‘We want to build something, but we want to win now.’”
Now, I’m not obtuse. There’s one particular aspect of the Raiders offense that’s a work-in-progress. And said spot is integral to any football team’s success and/or failures — the offensive line. Outside of anchor left tackle Kolton Miller — and perhaps center Andre James — there’s plenty to be solidified at the other spots along the big uglies (and I use that as a term of endearment). The offseason program (organized team activities (OTAs), training camp) and preseason tilts will help Vegas establish the pecking order. It’ll take a ton of hard work and heavy lifting, but new offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo and McDaniels are apt to continue the development of the group from last season than institute wholesale changes.
The Raiders offensive line is slated to resemble the group that saw the field last season. And while the unit did have it’s growing pains and instances of ineffectiveness, that same O-line was good enough as Vegas ripped off a series of wins to get into the playoffs. Perhaps Bricillo’s tutelage and McDaniels’ offense gets the group to become tip top.
Continuity can be a touchy subject for Raider Nation. A fan base famished for success, keeping things the same and moving forward often isn’t a popular topic. But for Carr and Co., a tear down and rebuild isn’t ideal. Giving the quarterback the extension that locks him in for the next four seasons (look, things can change in the blink of an eye in the NFL, but the assumption here is DC4 sees all four years of his new pact), cements continuity.
“It wasn’t just a complete haul of players taken out and brought in, so there’s continuity there,” Carr said. “Them showing me that is what means a lot to me: That they want to win now. Our locker room, if we’re being honest, before you know who’s gonna be the coach, we’re just thinking, ‘I just hope it’s someone that’s ready to take a step forward.’ Instead of, ‘Well, let’s get rid of him. Let’s trade this for picks and build through the next three years.’ As older players you’re like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to do that anymore.’ I’ve actually lost count how many times we’ve had to do that. And I’m glad that we’re just kind of taking that step forward.”
The step forward is quite rudimentary, actually. Playoff appearances must not only become the norm, but the settling for just entry into the postseason won’t be good enough. The AFC title game should be a good barometer. But, for all intents and purposes, if the Raiders can’t get to or win a Super Bowl in the three-year window created by Carr’s extension, it’s sadly another Silver & Black face plant — which is nearing patented status. It’ll reek of: “The Raiders made all those moves for what, exactly?” type inquiry.
Fortunately for Las Vegas, Carr intimated he’s got a permanent chip on his shoulder until he and the Raiders prove they are championship caliber.
“For me, the question of, ‘Can I win a playoff game?’ Like, yeah, that’s ridiculous,” Carr said. “Just because we had one chance and lost in the last series of a game to the AFC champions, yeah, I think we can. And it just shows you how close we were but, with that said, 55 percent of the teams that make the playoffs, the next year (they) don’t. … So, I’m gonna keep that underdog mentality and that chip-on-my-shoulder mindset but, at the same time, I know what I’m capable of and I know what our team’s capable of.”
Carr also noted talk is cheap — pathetically so. The Raiders as a whole must grind and work relentessly this offseason in preparation for what’s going to be a grueling AFC West. That division loaded up with talent and with all teams hoping the moves they’ve made drastically change the trajectory of their respective franchises.
“We have to go earn it. If we don’t go work for it, it doesn’t matter what I say it’s gonna be,” Carr said. “And if your best players are the ones leading that charge — Maxx (Crosby), Chandler (Jones), Davante (Adams), Hunter (Renfrow), Darren (Waller), Foster (Moreau), Kolton (Miller), Denzel (Perryman), myself — saying, ‘We’re gonna outwork everybody,’ that’s where success stems from. That’s where you give yourself a chance.”
The upcoming 2022 campaign is rife with Silver & Black proving grounds. Las Vegas wants to prove its not amongst the league’s also-rans and is a legitimate contender for a championship. Carr is dead set on proving once and for all that his loyalty to the Silver & Black isn’t poppycock and something tangible will come of it. He truly wants to reward the trust the organization — despite the front office, coaching and personnel changes he’s seen during his tenure — has given him. Like proudly hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
“We’re in the middle of what I dreamed of doing,” Carr said. “I wanted to be someone when all is said and done that my name would be at the top of a lot of lists on the stat sheets and all that stuff. And then I wanted to hold trophies and all that.
“Well, we haven’t done some of those things yet, but I wanted to leave my mark on this organization. I got four more years for that opportunity, that’s exciting for me because people have trusted me all this time. The people that make decisions when other teams were calling, or this or that, they’re like, ‘No chance. This is our guy.’ I look back at those moments and I’m thankful because I have another opportunity to go out and prove it again.”