If Jon Gruden hopes to get the Oakland Raiders back on track sooner than later, his first and most important priority will be fixing Derek Carr.
Now that Jon Gruden has officially been introduced as the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders, he must now shift his attention to repairing and rebuilding his most important asset — Derek Carr.
At Tuesday’s introductory press conference, Gruden fielded questions from members of local and national media. Questions varied from about his 10-year, $100 million dollar contract, to why he decided now is the right time to return to coaching. One other common question that was asked repeatedly was about his feelings on franchise quarterback Derek Carr.
He has great arm talent, he’s athletic, he’s got natural leadership skills, he’s young, he’s in his prime, he’s healthy now, he’s I think been in a lot of different systems, he’s played for a number of different coaches. There has not been a lot of continuity around him in that way. I think he’s got a huge upside. I think with Greg Olson and the system we’re going to put in place it’s going to demand a lot from him and I think that’s what’s going to unlock the greatness in him. Very, very excited to have him as our quarterback.
In 11 seasons as a head coach, Gruden finished with a 95-81 overall record. But with the exception of three seasons with Rich Gannon, he never had the opportunity to work with an elite level quarterback. The list of QBs that have started games for Gruden includes Donald Hollas, Jeff George, Wade Wilson, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Sims, Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay and Jeff Garcia in the twilight of his career. Carr immediately moves to the top of that list as far as talent is concerned.
The marriage of Gruden and Carr seems like a match made in heaven. The relationship dates back to just before the 2014 NFL Draft, when Carr was then just a prospect coming out of Fresno State. He was one of the quarterbacks selected to participate in the Gruden’s QB Camp, and Gruden made no secret of his affection for Carr’s game.
He’s one of my favorite guys in this draft. Pure arm talent, he has the best arm talent in this draft. We had Santonio Holmes and a number of NFL players participate in the workout. All of them had their eyebrows raised by Carr’s passing ability. Very interesting upside, he can hum it.
Fast forward four years later, and Gruden will now be Carr’s newest mentor. The timing couldn’t be better for Carr as he is coming off a disappointing 2017 season. He saw a drop in every major statistical category, not to mention he threw seven more interceptions compared to his near MVP-caliber 2016 season. Sure, there are several reasons for the drop in play — most notable a rookie offensive coordinator who lacked creativity and three broken bones in his back that he never seemed to recover from. But even so, there are areas outside of these factors where Carr will need to improve.
If Gruden is to have immediate success with the Raiders, he will need to get Carr and the offense back to their 2016 form. As of this moment, the coaching staff still has a vacancy at QB Coach, now that Rich Gannon won’t be hired for that position.
Greg Olson is back in his second stint with the Raiders as offensive coordinator, and his familiarity with Carr should help ease the transition. Olson has spent the last three seasons as a offensive coordinator/quarterback coach with Jacksonville Jaguars, and he spent last season with Sean McVay and the Rams. It should be noted that while in Jacksonville, Blake Bortles put together his finest season under the tutelage of Olson, and this past season, he helped in the development of Jared Goff as his quarterback coach.
Together, Gruden and Olson will have to challenge and push Carr to be great. Throughout his career, Gruden has been heavily involved with the quarterbacks and the play calling. This time will be no different. Gruden has already gone on the record saying that the offense that he and Olson are putting in place will demand a lot from Carr, and that he will be calling the plays.
History has shown us that Gruden has had the ability to bring out the best in his quarterbacks. Rich Gannon experienced a renaissance at the age of 34 with Gruden, Brad Johnson also put together his best statistical season in 2003 with Gruden. And how can we forget the two won a Super Bowl together in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now back with the Raiders, Gruden has the opportunity to work with a young, talented quarterback in his prime with far more raw talent than both Gannon and Johnson combined.
Gruden acknowledged that the team and himself have much to prove in 2018 and beyond:
Well they started off fast with two impressive wins. That is what we are in the process of finding out. I can’t tell you that I have all the right answers right now. We have to get to work and solve the problems that we have. We did not finish well. We lost our last four games, had some injuries certainly, and changes with the coaching staff. There were some things that went wrong, but you can’t solve all the problems today. We’ve got to come up with a plan to put the Raiders back on track and build this football team back.
With an offensive mind like Gruden as his coach and the talent surrounding him, there is no doubt that the expectations for Carr in 2018 will be sky high. Him meeting or exceeding those expectations is the single biggest key to this team getting back on track and to put a Super Bowl title within reach.