It’s always exciting to get a shiny, new toy, isn’t it? Once you get it, you can hardly wait to get it home, unwrap it and start playing with it right away. Given the amount of buzz he’s generating – as well as the countless calls for him to start immediately – it’s fair to say that Oakland Raiders second-round draft pick Derek Carr is inspiring that “new toy” feeling in a lot of people. Unfortunately for them, rookie QBs in the NFL aren’t actually like a new toy, and shouldn’t necessarily be unwrapped and played with right away.
Carr has showed tremendous upside and a presence that has made an impression on his new teammates. He’s progressed far faster than anybody expected, and has showed that he can be the quarterback of the future that GM Reggie McKenzie and HC Dennis Allen have long been pining for. If Carr continues to develop as he has to this point, the future of the Raiders looks very bright indeed.
But that future is not right now. Nor does it need to be.
One thing the “start Carr now” crowd needs to bear in mind is that for as good and promising as he’s looked throughout the offseason, he’s still a rookie quarterback with a lot to learn. And the NFL is notorious for chewing up and spitting out rookie quarterbacks who are thrown into the fire before they are ready. It is also worth pointing out that though he did indeed show tremendous capability, he did so in OTAs and minicamp – not against a live, furious pass rush in a game situation.
Yes, some rookie QBs have been able to find immediate success in the league – Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, of course, come to mind. But they are the exceptions and are most definitely not the rule. For every Luck and Wilson, there are dozens who have wilted beneath the pressure of being thrusted into the spotlight without having the time to prepare or develop.
The bigger point to be made, though, is the fact that the Raiders don’t need Carr to step in immediately. McKenzie brought in Houston Texans castoff Matt Schaub to lead the Oakland offense, believing there are better days ahead for the veteran, and that his abysmal 2013 was simply an outlier in an otherwise very solid, productive career.
And the early return on their investment appears to be paying dividends as Schaub has impressed the coaching staff with his velocity, accuracy, confidence and leadership – all things notably lacking from him in 2013. Granted, this is during OTAs and minicamp, so the same grain of salt needs to be taken with Schaub’s successes as they should be with Carr’s, but the early reports coming out of Oakland are encouraging. Schaub looks to be far closer to the quarterback who threw for more than 4,000 yards multiple times and posted a 90-plus passer rating for five-consecutive seasons than the one who threw a pick-six in four-consecutive games, and 14 overall last year.
Having Carr learn from Schaub, from somebody who has had success in the NFL, can only enhance the rookie’s opportunity to succeed. It can only help provide him with the tools he needs to be an effective, productive NFL quarterback. Schaub is a fantastic bridge QB who will help get the team pointed in the right direction, while at the same time helping the kid grow.
Contrary to the opinions of some, holding a clipboard for a season isn’t going to stunt a player’s growth. It might actually help them develop into a better QB in the long run. Bringing him along slowly and letting him develop will benefit both Carr and the team.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who sat on the bench behind Brett Favre for a while, credits those years on the bench for helping make him the QB he is today – and he’s indisputably one of the best in the league.
Schaub is the right QB for the now. Carr is a great option for the future. Derek Carr does need to start for the Oakland Raiders. But not right now.