When Fresno State product Derek Carr – a QB the Oakland Raiders were extremely high on – fell into their laps in the second round of last month’s NFL Draft, many saw it as a sign that the Silver & Black’s fortunes were finally turning. Especially after having had stud LB Khalil Mack fall into their laps a round earlier. And now that Carr is signed, performing well in OTA’s and impressing the coaching staff, many among the sports media have already predicted that he will supplant Matt Schaub as the team’s starter in week one.
Having high expectations isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But having unrealistic expectations is.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether the people who’ve already anointed the rookie as Oakland’s day one starter really are big Carr supporters, or are just bigger Schaub haters. Either way, some sports media figures, in a seemingly relentless effort to generate a QB controversy – because nothing generates a little buzz and gets people talking like controversy – are laying some heavy, perhaps even unmanageable expectations on Carr’s shoulders.
There is no doubt that he is talented, athletic, has a great arm, high football IQ, and unlimited upside. Carr has the potential to be great for a lot of years in the league. But it would behoove some folks to remember that for all of his positive attributes – and there are many – Carr is still a rookie with a lot to learn. There is a world of difference between playing at Fresno State and playing in the NFL. Just as there is a world of difference between looking great in OTA’s and facing a live pass rush filled with professional athletes paid a lot of money to take your head clean off.
Could Carr start for Oakland on day one? He probably could. But should he? Absolutely not. With so much on the line – including their jobs – GM Reggie McKenzie and HC Dennis Allen would be wise to take their time in developing Carr. They are laying a solid foundation for long term success in Oakland – something the franchise and the fans haven’t been able to look forward to for a very long time. But they could derail it all by throwing Carr straight into the fire before he’s ready. They could do a lot more harm than good to his psyche and development by putting the entire weight of the franchise on his shoulders before he’s fully equipped to deal with it.
Schaub was brought in to provide stability to an offensive unit in desperate need of it. Critics point to his beyond dismal performance in 2013 as proof that the Raiders made a mistake in trading for him, and that the chaos and inconsistency under center that has seemingly been a staple for Oakland for years now will continue. Schaub’s critics discount his ability to bounce back from a terrible year, and are urging Allen to start Carr on day one with the hope that he is even better than advertised, and that his live arm will revive the franchise.
As good as Carr is right now, he’ll be even better with a year of seasoning and experience. He’ll be even better learning under a quarterback who, prior to 2013, had been one of the top-10 in the league, a quarterback who’s had a tremendous amount of success in a very solid ten-year career, and can provide him with the tools he needs to be successful in the NFL.
The landscape of the professional football is littered with the wreckage of careers that once held incredible promise. But for many, thrown into the fire before they were ready, before they were prepared, they crumpled beneath the weight of unrealistic expectations. Carr will get his chance to shine, he’ll get his chance to make his mark on the franchise. But that time does not necessarily have to be right now.
No, the Raiders shouldn’t be afraid to start Carr if the need arises. But they shouldn’t necessarily rush to throw him into the starting lineup. Doing so could wind up doing more harm than good in the long run. Both for Carr, and for the Raiders.