Derek Carr Thriving Despite Raiders Drama

Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the drama the Las Vegas Raiders have faced off the field with the circumstances surrounding former head coach Jon Gruden’s resignation, Las Vegas is 2-0 in the two games without him. They’re 5-2 on the season now, and they sit alone atop an AFC West division that has proven to be one of the most talent-stacked in the league.

For all of this season, but especially in the last two weeks, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been the rock-solid foundation of Vegas’ offensive production. They’re a top-10 team in points scored and total yards per game, and they have the second-highest total of passing yards per game behind only Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now in his eighth professional season, the 30-year-old Carr is on pace for his greatest year yet.

In the three full years that Gruden was head coach of the Raiders, Carr’s numbers improved year after year. Every season, he’d set a new career-high in passing yards and passer rating while throwing more touchdowns in each year of the Gruden regime. At the same time, the Raiders have begun to win more and more games each season.

This year, even without Gruden for the rest of the season, Carr is on pace to continue that trend. His 2,269 passing yards in seven games have him on pace to break the 5,000-yard mark for the first time in his career in just 16 games (Henry Ruggs’ breakout as one of the league’s best deep-ball receivers has helped). He’s also throwing almost two touchdowns per game, so he’s again on track to throw more touchdowns than the 27 he had last year. The most important stat is wins, and Carr and the Raiders are in a great spot to have a winning season for the first time since they went 12-4 in 2016.

Since Gruden’s departure from the team, Carr has stepped up as a leader both on and off the field. In a divisional game against the Broncos two Sundays ago, Carr led the Raiders to a big win with 341 yards and two touchdowns, no interceptions, and 18-of-27 passing. Then, let’s look at his unbelievable stat line from this past weekend. 

The Las Vegas quarterback dropped back to pass 34 times. Out of those attempts, Carr only threw three incompletions. That’s a completion rate of 91.2%. Ninety-one point two! Only one quarterback has had a higher completion rate on 30+ pass attempts in the modern era: Drew Brees with a 29-of-30 (96.7%) in 2019. In case you were wondering which quarterback formerly held that spot as second-best, it was also Carr. In a game against the Broncos in 2019, he had a completion rate of 90.6 percent on 32 attempts. Unfortunately for Carr, one of his three “incompletions” on Sunday was an interception, but his final line also included 323 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly, a win.

After the game, Carr acknowledged his increased need to be a leader since Gruden left.

“When coach Gruden would walk into a room, all eyes are on him. When we lost that, someone has to fill that void. It’s not only me, but obviously as the quarterback and leader and I’ve been here a while, I was like, ‘I’ve got to take that part of what I do to another level,” he said.

Whatever he and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia are doing has been successful so far. The Raiders have appeared totally unaffected by the drama surrounding them, going out and continuing to win. With the way he’s been performing, Carr might even find himself in MVP conversations soon if it continues.

After their bye this week, they face the New York Giants in New York before hosting their struggling division-rival Kansas City Chiefs, then the surging Joe Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals. If Carr and the offense continue to execute through the back half of the season, Las Vegas could win their contentious division.

Written By:

Jack McKessy

Staff Writer

Jack McKessy is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who grew up in Washington, D.C. As a student, he covered Northwestern’s football, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and baseball teams. Previously, he was in charge of social media and contributed to both written and multimedia content creation for La Vida Baseball in Chicago. He has also assisted in the production of promotional content for the Big Ten Network. Jack initially joined the TDN team as an intern during the 2020 season. Now, he writes columns—primarily analysis of the New York Giants—and helps run TDN's YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.