If you just looked at the stats, you'd think Derek Carr was one of best quarterbacks in the league.
I mean, he's completing 73.5 percent of this passes with four touchdowns against zero interceptions for a passer rating of 115.0. Most importantly, the Raiders are 2-0. That's good stuff.
And the truth is, Carr has played well in these games. And he's played mostly good football over the past two seasons, once he had a better handle on Jon Gruden's scheme. And Carr probably would have performed better if he had better receivers last season. Even this season, they're mostly young (rookies Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards), new (Nelson Agholor) or just not that good (Zay Jones).
But there's never really been a question about Carr early in seasons when the pressure is off. Or against bad pass defenses (opener vs. Carolina). Or against offenses that can't pull away due to injuries (Saints).
The issue with Carr has always been, will he make the big plays in the biggest spots needed in the biggest games? This is where he has come up short in his career, especially last season when a QB with the clutch gene could have helped the Raiders from falling out of playoff contention with a four-game losing streak.
Even Gruden voiced his frustration indirectly at Carr, as the film repeatedly showed chances Carr could have taken to put the team over the top and didn't.
“I’m getting old now. I wanna let it fly,” Gruden told Chargers reporters last year. “… I want big plays. I want excitement. These bubble screens and check downs only go so far with me.
“I want to be aggressive and I want to try to make some big plays. Especially if you’ve got the offensive line and supporting cast to back it up.”
That was the coach calling out the quarterback for not having the guts of a burglar. And, look, Carr is not an average QB. He will make plays in every game that are impressive. But last season, he failed to make the plays that Gruden schemed up for him to push the Raiders forward. Gruden's frustration was warranted.
The question is, has that changed in the first two games? Will the Carr that takes the field at Gillette Stadium, challenge the likes of Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson and Devin McCourty down the field when the Raiders need it most?
Some of the evidence says he will not, that Carr is the same risk-averse QB he showed last season.
This play late in the first half, with the Raiders trailing 10-0, was a perfect example of some of the frustration that has to drive Gruden — who emerged from this hiatus as one of the best schemers and playcallers in the game — crazy at times.
Situation: 2-10-NO 46 (2:24) (Shotgun) D.Carr sacked at LV 49 for -5 yards (T.Hendrickson).
Penalty on LV-R.Incognito, Offensive Holding, declined.
Here's the play and analysis: