Oakland Raiders: Five Burning 2015 Questions

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Jun 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws a pass at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Will Derek Carr Develop into a Franchise Quarterback?

In today’s NFL, a team is often only as good as its’ quarterback. While having an elite passer is not absolutely necessary to win championships, having a quality passer who can consistently run your offense without making critical errors is an absolute must.

The Raiders have had pretty bad quarterback luck since one-time MVP quarterback Rich Gannon’s career ended in 2004. Since that time, the Raiders have used fifteen different starting quarterbacks. Some were solid veteran passers who put up solid numbers like Carson Palmer and Kerry Collins. Some were journeyman veterans passing through like Jason Campbell and Aaron Brooks. Some were just not fit to be NFL quarterbacks like Jamarcus Russell and Andrew Walter. All were unsuccessful.

Then last year, 2nd round draft pick Derek Carr out of Fresno State jump-started the Raider Nation with a big preseason performance followed by a full 16 games as the Raiders’ starting quarterback. He became one of only seven rookie passers in league history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and 20 TD’s. He took his lumps and made mistakes like any rookie on his way to a 3-13 record, but at the end of the season it seemed the Raiders had found their franchise guy.

Of course after just one season it’s hard to determine if a quarterback is really ready to be the franchise player. Carr had a rare rookie year, but so did Robert Griffin III, who is now on the bubble in Washington. Becoming a franchise quarterback is about more than production, arm strength and accuracy – things that Derek Carr has plenty of, but of course so did Jamarcus Russell at one point.

Franchise quarterbacks must have a lot of other traits in order to be successful in that role. Derek Carr, aside from having top-notch arm talent, has many of these traits in spades. Carr, from all reports, is a football junkie, and started breaking down NFL game tapes with his older brother – former first overall pick David Carr – when he was in grade school. Reports have Carr as the type of player who arrives at the team facility before even the coaches, and often the last player to leave. He works out more than anyone. He watches film more than anyone. He talks to his coaches and his veteran teammates about football more than anyone. He’s not going to be outworked.

But he’s not some insular football nerd who doesn’t inspire his teammates: he’s also by most reports one of the most likeable personalities on the team. One only has to go to his twitter feed and see the back and forth conversations he has with Justin Tuck – a defensive player who is a full decade or more older than him – as if the two have been friends for years. He is a devout Christian and a perennial optimist, but unlike some others of that profile, he is not sanctimonious or seemingly fake about it. He clearly loves to play football and loves to play football with his team, and from most reports, his teammates love playing football with him.

He also has shown that he will do what it takes to win and to get it done, or at least go down shooting. In the Raiders first win of 2014 against he Chiefs, Carr had one of his worst passing games of the season. Late in the game, during a crucial drive down the field to retake the lead, Carr faced 4th and 1 after missing on a crucial 3rd down pass to Mychal Rivera. He carried the ball himself to pick up the necessary yardage and keep the drive alive. Facing a 3rd and 1 a few plays later, he carried it himself again to pick up the necessary yards, giving his team a crucial 1st and goal. He would finish the drive by hitting James Jones for the go-ahead score with less than two minutes left.

Carr is a bright, hardworking and authentically nice young man with all the arm talent and football IQ to be successful in the NFL. He also has a good set of wheels that he can pull out every now and then, and a knack for getting the ball out of his hands quickly. While he still has to learn not to settle for the short pass as often as he did last year, and he’ll have to learn how to stand up a bit better with the pass rush in his face, he is already on par on a talent and knowledge level – as well as a production level – with franchise starting QB’s around the league.

Reggie McKenzie has now added more pieces to give Carr every reason to succeed and take that next step. With a receiving corps that includes Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Rod Streater, and two decent receiving tight ends, he has weapons. With an Donald Penn guarding his blind side and Rodney Hudson calling adjustments from center, he should be able to throw from a clean pocket more often than not. And with a running back group that includes pass-catching stud Roy Helu and pass-blocking stud Trent Richardson, along with the exciting Latavius Murray to carry the load, Carr will have all the help he needs behind him. This will be a breakout year for the young player if he remains healthy, and by the end of 2015, there should be no doubt that Derek Carr is the future of the Raiders franchise at the all-important quarterback position.