Yes, you heard me correctly. After a down year (that still had Derek in the top half of the league in QB rating. C’mon we remember the J’Marcus Russell days…) Derek Carr looks to not only return to his 2016 form, but surpass it. And he will. This will happen primarily because of the coaches that surround him, his personal work ethic, and the focus that both of those will bring to the 2018 team.
Before we jump into the work ethic of Derek Carr, let’s look at his 2018 coaching staff.
1. Jon Gruden
Gruden’s hiring made a splash in Raider Nation. He is a Super Bowl winning head coach (I won’t mention the team he beat), and a renowned quarterback guru. He gains this image based on what he did with the quarterbacks he coached. Listen to this: Jon Gruden never coached a quarterback as talented as Carr. Seriously, go look up the list of quarterbacks. It’s names like Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, yeah, names you’ve heard of only because they work in the media. In fact, Brian Griese’s best years as a pro came while Gruden was his coach.
Everyone saying that Gruden doesn’t develop quarterbacks would have a point only if the players he drafted went on to succeed elsewhere. They didn’t. They just weren’t good players. Derek Carr is the most talented quarterback Gruden has ever coached, and we will see that talent in full force in 2018.
2. Greg Olson
Another familiar name to Raider Nation that didn’t bring up a cheer like Gruden is offensive coordinator Greg Olson. I understand this sentiment seeing that given Greg Olson’s previous stint as Raiders OC, the team was a combined 7-25. A silver lining in this hire, however, was that Olson was Derek Carr’s first OC. Olson knows Carr. He knows what makes him tick and how to coach him. Granted, Carr has grown leaps and bounds in the 4 years since his rookie year, and that can be seen as an advantage. Olson will have the title of offensive coordinator, but will really function more as a senior quarterbacks coach, and in my opinion, this is where Olson thrives.
Throughout his career, when this has been his primary role, he’s succeeded. As a quarterbacks coach primarily, Olson has guided Josh Freeman (remember him?) to be a top ten passer; then in his first coaching stint with Jacksonville in 2012, he had Blaine Gabbert looking like a serviceable quarterback before Gabert tore his labrum. Olson was Blake Bortles OC in 2015, when Bortles reached career numbers in TDs and QBR. Blake freaking Bortles.
Oh, and by the way, Olson this past year was the quarterbacks coach for Jared Goff under Sean McVay, and we all know what that turnaround looked like. All in all, when Greg Olson’s job is just to focus on the quarterbacks, he’s a proven coach. This hire may not be a flashy one, but it is a good one.
3. Brian Callahan
The final coach that will help Derek Carr have a career year is also a familiar name albeit a new face. Brian Callahan is the son of former Raiders OC and HC Bill Callahan, and he will be on the Raiders staff as the quarterback’s coach. This is a great hire. Callahan has been around prolific quarterbacks since being in the NFL.
His first coaching job was with the Denver Broncos (2010-2015) and guess who the quarterback was for the majority of that time. That’s right, the sheriff, Peyton Manning. Callahan even served as quarterbacks coach during the Broncos Super Bowl 50 run. He was able to learn how an elite quarterback was supposed to prepare, practice, and play by watching one of the greatest of all time do it.
After this, Callahan went on to be the quarterback’s coach for the Lions in 2016 and 2017. Remember when Derek Carr was having all of those 4th quarter comebacks in 2016 and we were all chanting MVP? Well, do you also remember what other quarterback was leading his team to 4th quarter comebacks as well? Yeah, Matthew Stafford. For the Lions. Where Brian Callahan was the quarterbacks coach. Stafford followed that 2016 season with a higher rated 2017 season throwing for five more touchdowns and not increasing his interception total.
Callahan being in the quarterback’s room along with Olson and Gruden is going to be good for Carr.
Now, before going any further, let’s compare this quarterbacks room with our previous one. Jack Del Rio. Jake Peetz. Todd Downing. I’m not here to bash those guys, but when looking at that quarterback room compared to the one now, I mean, things look really good.
This is what successful sustainable teams do, and without getting too offtrack, take the Philadelphia Eagles (the NFC representative in the Super Bowl) for example. The Eagles offensive staff is built for the quarterback. Carson Wentz (and currently Nick Foles) have practically three quarterback coaches in Doug Pederson (HC), Frank Reich (OC), and John DeFilippo (QBs), and we’re seeing that when the staff is built around the most important position in football, things go well.
And I hear you. A lot of you guys are saying, “Well, it doesn’t matter who the coach is if Carr can’t be coached… Carr’s too soft… Carr’s too Christian (whatever that means) to be coached by Gruden.” And to those of you who say that… that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Carr’s a competitor. His brothers have been quoted saying that if you say you get up before Derek, he sets his clock one minute earlier than yours so he can get up first. He’s the first-in-last-out guy who played with three broken bones in his back this past year. Here is an article that’s all about how much of a competitor Derek Carr is and I invite you to go read it.
And about his religion… saying that religion will keep someone from being coached is absurd. I don’t even need to spend time on this to say how absurd it is. Just go ask Kurt Warner, Roger Staubach, Tony Dungy, etc.
Derek Carr is going to be coached. He’s going to be pushed to beyond old, even new, limits. But the thing about Derek Carr is that he wants that. With his work ethic, along with a staff that is being assembled around him, Derek Carr will be launched into new heights not only in the Raiders organization but in the entire NFL. Get ready for an elite offense under Jon Gruden. And get ready for it to be led by an elite Derek Carr.
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