I’ve been in high school locker rooms and college locker rooms and there’s a closeness and a bond with those players that you just don’t get in the NFL.
But it was different when I was with Derek on Saturday in the Raiders’ locker room after he broke his fibula. Guys were coming up and guys were crying and hugging him. You could see it. These guys are close because they went through some tough times where they were pretty bad. Three years ago they lost 10 games in a row – it didn’t look like they were ever going to win a game that season. They’ve been together for three years and building it and they’re at a point now where they’re sitting at the top of the league. They’re getting ready to go on a playoff run and then to lose the guy that has been with you the whole time and is your leader, an MVP candidate, all that stuff, it was pretty tough to watch those guys because they were devastated.
Derek, he’s going to be fine. The surgery on Tuesday went great. We were sitting there and the doctor came in and he was super happy with what he saw. He said that it even started healing itself compared with the X-rays that the Raiders gave him. The nice thing is, there was no ligament damage. It’s not going to be like a four- to five-month thing. It’s going to be much shorter and he’s going to be able to go full-go in the spring.
I know Derek definitely appreciates all the prayers and it was endless, the outpouring from everyone. We had people trying to donate fibulas and tibias … it was pretty funny, but people definitely cared. It was cool.
That was actually the first Raiders game I’ve ever been to. I’ve watched all the games from Derek’s house, so I can sit there and watch. I get so locked in on what he’s doing and trying to see what’s happening. But we were opening Christmas presents the night before the game and everybody got a suite ticket. They ended up purchasing a suite for that game and gave it to our family and we all were stoked.
That’s the one way Derek could get me to go to a game.
I know he definitely appreciates all the prayers and it was endless, the outpouring from everyone. We had people trying to donate fibulas and tibias ... it was pretty funny, but people definitely cared. It was cool.
So we’re all sitting there and they’re rolling. They’re running the football well. The defense is getting some turnovers. You want to be hot going into the playoffs on all sides of the ball and they were playing that way, and then Derek got hurt and it was like the life got sucked out of the stadium. I don’t know if anybody watched the game for the next 10 minutes until Derek disappeared into the tunnel. It was a weird vibe in that stadium.
But, as Derek said in his statement that night, they still have everything in front of them. That same team minus their quarterback – I’m not going to sugarcoat that because it’s obviously a big blow and I think everybody understands that – they still have a good football team and they’re in the playoffs. You have a chance, so make something out of it and try to make this season special.
Derek’s backup, Matt McGloin, is a smart guy. He understands the system. He has started before. I think you look back at when he played a couple of years ago, they didn’t have the players they have now. You have Pro Bowl linemen up front with Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele. You have Michael Crabtree at receiver. You have Amari Cooper. You have three backs in Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington who are playing well. They have the weapons. Just look at the game this weekend against Denver. Last time they played them they ran the football pretty well. They pretty much did whatever they wanted to do up front and that’s kind of a blueprint that carried on even after that game, and Denver has had some struggles stopping the run.
I think that’s what the Raiders have to lean on. They’ll put that sixth lineman in there, even a seventh sometimes, and they’ll pound the football. They’ll try to get numbers in the run game and try to get a one-on-one outside with Amari or with Crab and then take their shots. I think that’s going to have to be their game plan. The wild card is their coaching staff is going to have to be pretty creative in the red zone, and I think they’ve done as good a job as any as far as dialing stuff up, putting players in position to make plays.
Everyone is going to have to step up a little more and they have the guys to do that. Matt is going to have to do his part on third down and then when they take shots downfield, they’re going to have to hit them. They can do it. It’s going to be tougher, but everyone has to kind of step up and do a little more.
Question of the week
From Ron Bradley: What do you think it is about Fresno State that, over the years, it has produced some outstanding quarterbacks that have gone on to the NFL like Kevin Sweeney, Billy Volek, Trent Dilfer, yourself and your brother Derek?
When you look at a lot of those guys, Jeff Tedford was around or his offensive system was around with most of them through Pat Hill and the guys that Pat brought in. I was with Jeff for a year before he left for Oregon. Derek came in and he ran a spread his last two years, but before that he was in that system, too.
They ran a pro-style offense and it develops quarterbacks. You have to learn everything. It’s not like what we’re seeing a lot these days with other schools. When Derek was there, he had a background in it before he started running a spread and it helped him. It helped him get in and out of plays, because he understood what the defense was doing. A lot of playing quarterback is just understanding your offense and understanding what the defense is trying to do to stop you and understanding leverage and numbers and how to move your offense down the field. The best ones take ownership of that offense and they’re able to use it on the field. With all those guys, they had some of that.
None of those guys had to look to the sideline to see what play they should run. They all learned how to play quarterback the correct way, learned how to check in and out of plays, learned what beats Cover 2, what beats Cover 3. It was the type of system that Pat always wanted to run there with Jeff and it’s pretty much the same idea, same thought process as far as bringing quarterbacks along. Make them pro-ready and then they’ll be pretty good quarterbacks at the college level. That was their philosophy.
That knowledge of playing quarterback, that’s the crown jewel. It’s priceless. If you really want to develop quarterbacks and you really want quarterbacks to succeed, no matter what level their ability takes them, you have to give them tools for it. It’s one thing to just try to find completions and find a way to get into the end zone. But a good quarterback coach, a good head coach, a good offensive coordinator should constantly be trying to give everything he knows to the quarterback so he can use it on the field, and that’s what those guys always did for us and it helped us after we left Fresno State.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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