Since bringing in veteran QB and Houston Texans castoff Matt Schaub—made expendable after a miserable 2013 campaign—Oakland Raiders HC Dennis Allen has been unequivocal in his support of the veteran signal caller and has stated that Schaub will be Oakland’s starting QB in 2013—many times over. So you can’t really blame him for being a bit cranky when asked yet again, about the QB controversy brewing in the Raiders’ training camp—he’s probably just tired of answering the same questions about the supposed quarterback controversy that he’s answered a million times already.
As training camp finally got underway, Allen was asked by a member of the media—yet again—about the great Matt Schaub vs. Derek Carr QB battle.
“It’s Matt. It’s Matt. Matt is our quarterback.”
From the minute GM Reggie McKenzie drafted Fresno State product Derek Carr in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft, the quarterback controversy began in earnest—at least in the minds of some fans and sports media figures. NFL Network reporter Albert Breer even penned a piece—based on anonymous sources of course—in which the Raiders, at least internally, believed that Carr would push Schaub for the starting job. That piece has fanned the flames of the QB debate surrounding the Raiders.
A QB debate that Allen says—and has said a million different times in a million different ways—exists only in the minds of those fans excited about Carr and media figures looking to fill column space.
There is no doubt that Carr is a gifted, talented quarterback with tremendous upside. He is the future of the organization. But that future does not have to be right now—nor should it be. In a piece that appeared on ESPN’s NFL Nation, Allen was quoted as saying:
“I’m really excited about Derek Carr. I think he’s got a chance to be a top-level quarterback in this league. But he’s young, and he’s a rookie. That’s a tough proposition in this league. I know we’ve seen some guys that have been able to have some success as a rookie quarterback, but I’ve also seen some opportunities where guys have had a chance to sit in behind a veteran quarterback and watch and learn and go on to have successful careers.”
The number of rookies who have immediate, overwhelming success is actually quite small. And with the Raiders planning on employing an offense that is run-heavy and filled with play-action passing, protecting the ball is essential—and not always the strongest suit of rookie quarterbacks.
For as impressive as he’s looked in OTAs, Carr has yet to face a live, NFL pass rush. Will he be able to adjust to it and handle the increased pressure? Will he be able to not just protect the ball, but make the smart reads, the smart decisions, and the smart throws? Probably so. In time. As OC Greg Olson was quoted as saying, “the game has not been too big for him to this point.”
Of course, all of this is not to say that if last season was not the anomaly the Raiders believe it was, and Schaub is unable to regain the form that led him to two Pro Bowls, multiple seasons with more than 4,000 passing yards, and five straight seasons with a quarterback rating over 90, that they’d hesitate to put Carr in. There is too much riding on this season—and neither McKenzie nor Allen can afford another dismal year.
But for now, the plan is to ride with Schaub. The early returns have been encouraging and the coaching staff believes he is closer to being the pre-2013 Matt Schaub than he is the QB who melted down so spectacularly last year.
So if you find yourself in a room with Dennis Allen, you may want to avoid asking him the dreaded Schaub vs. Carr question or—given his reported surliness about that question—you may find yourself tied to a tackling dummy with no pads and Khalil Mack bearing down on you.