The Temporarily Oakland Raiders are in tear-down mode once again. That makes two rebuilds in the last six years preceded by years of directionless mediocrity and utter wretchedness.
Whether it happens prior to Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline or during the offseason, the time has come for the Raiders and Derek Carr to part ways.
The Raiders could continue their unapologetic tanking and stockpiling of draft picks before their 2020 move to Las Vegas. And Carr could play for an organization that’s going somewhere besides 3-13.
Carr is far too classy and professional to demand a trade from the organization that drafted him. He’s also far too loyal to his teammates, “fractured relationship” or not, and to Raiders fans most of all. That’s just the way his circuits are wired.
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But like last season when Carr returned far too soon from a broken back, the former Fresno State star doesn’t always act in his own best self-interest.
For Carr’s sake, let’s hope head coach/shot caller Jon Gruden sends him packing. Just like Gruden did to fellow standouts Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper.
“I don’t see us making any more trades,” Gruden told reporters Wednesday. “Certainly, I don’t see us trading our quarterback.”
Which in Chuckie-speak translates roughly to, “Derek, I hope you enjoy Jacksonville.”
Northern Florida would be a fine landing spot for Carr. The Jaguars have a formidable defense and a quarterback who vacillates between lousy and barely playable. So would Tennessee, Houston or even the New York Giants now that Eli Manning is on his last legs.
Basically, any situation is better than the one Carr currently finds himself: Tethered to an overrated, egomaniacal coach and a franchise plunging toward rock bottom.
Carr deserves better.
I’ll admit the word “deserves,” in the context of pro sports, is problematic. Carr is very well-compensated for what he does and hasn’t really lived up to the five-year, $125 million contract he signed in June 2017, back when the Raiders’ fortunes appeared to be trending upward.
What a mirage that turned out to be. Whether it’s fear of being re-injured or lack of supporting personnel, Carr’s play has yet to return to 2016 levels.
Fast-forward two years and the Raiders are about as far away from a Super Bowl contender as an NFL franchise can possibly be. The roster is being gutted and Carr’s toughness and locker room gravitas are being questioned in the context of anonymously sourced reports.
Why? Because during the Raiders’ 27-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 6, a game in which Carr was sacked six times, video surfaced of Carr wincing and grimacing after getting hit.
In the Twitter-sphere, wincing and grimacing became crying. Which meant Carr is a crybaby. Which morphed into a narrative of, “How can Carr be a leader of men if he cries on the field?”
Things got so out of control that Carr felt compelled to defend himself both on Twitter and to reporters.
“I broke my back, I broke my ankle. I didn’t cry then …” Carr said. “My trainer texted me some pictures of me making the same face so I guess I cry when I train too.”
First of all, the whole premise is ridiculous. Even if Carr did shed a few tears, does that really make him less of a man? Does that really make him less of a leader? What a bunch of false machismo, perpetrated by a few click-hungry keyboard warriors.
There’s nothing wrong, or un-manly, about showing emotion.
Video from the same game showed Carr pleading with Gruden to let him back on the field, even though he was clearly hurting and the situation hopeless. Not in his self-interest, once again, but that’s how leaders respond to adversity.
Second, where are Carr’s teammates? Derek has always accepted blame for losses and never throws anyone else under the proverbial bus. Yet besides backup tight end Lee Smith and a couple ex-players, no one in a Raiders uniform has come to his defense.
Mack, Carr’s close friend and ally, would have most assuredly spoken up. Except he’s in Chicago. But where are the Raiders’ highly paid and underperforming offensive linemen? Where is defensive end Bruce Irvin, who has an opinion on almost everything?
Their silence, or absence, tells me they either don’t respect Carr or are reluctant to say anything that may cause them to be the next one out the revolving door.
Either way, it’s a toxic situation that the central San Joaquin Valley’s favorite athlete best escapes. Even if he ends up on the opposite coast.
I would be shocked if Carr ever goes public with a trade demand. And Gruden, knowing how badly he’s alienated a sizable chunk of the fan base, is probably reluctant to deal another popular star. Carr’s low dead-money number against the 2019 salary cap, just $7.5 million against a $20 million salary, means the sixth-year pro could be cut relatively pain free during the offseason.
However it happens. Carr needs a fresh start. And the Raiders need a new scapegoat.