The Oakland Raiders entered Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft in a precarious position. While general manager Reggie McKenzie lucked into linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 5 overall on Day 1, his team still didn’t have a long-term solution at quarterback.
Matt McGloin was Oakland’s only hedge in case trading for quarterback Matt Schaub turned out to be a bad move. If the Raiders received the 2013 version of Schaub, the one in which he threw 14 interceptions in 10 games, they would probably be poised for their third straight season with a 4-12 record.
While the Raiders had more pressing needs heading in this draft, selected Fresno State’s Derek Carr at No. 36 overall, because he solves their predicament at quarterback in a big way. Carr gives the Raiders a better hedge for Schaub, but more importantly, he is a quarterback they can develop into a true franchise quarterback.
According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Carr was the top-rated quarterback on the Raiders draft board. Oakland’s interest in Carr had been widely reported for months, but to be able to get him in the second round without giving up any draft value was a big win for McKenzie.
The Raiders likely made the trade for Schaub and a financial commitment to him knowing that they may not have been able to get Carr later. Per Andrew Brandt of ESPN, Carr won’t be rushed to play because the Raiders fully guaranteed Schaub $8 million in 2014.
Since they were able to land Carr, the Raiders instantly get an insurance policy for Schaub. Carr will be an expensive backup initially because he came at the price of the 36th overall pick, but he’s obviously much more than that.
“To me, it doesn’t matter what the situation is,” Carr said via conference call with local media that posted on the team’s official website. “If I’m a starter, if I’m a backup there to learn, my number one goal is to help the Raiders win.”
Carr seems to be prepared for the likelihood that he will not be the starter even if he would welcome that opportunity. Carr also made it clear he doesn’t hold a grudge against Schaub, who replaced his older brother as the quarterback of the Houston Texans in 2007.
“How can I help Schaub during the game?” Carr asked rhetorically on the conference call. “How can I help him? Can I watch the safety? Can I watch the corners? Can I tell them they played this coverage? When we were in this coverage, they ran this blitz and this down and distance. What can I do to help?”
The situation mirrors closely what transpired across the bay from the Raiders over the last few years. The 49ers drafted Kaepernick with the 36th overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft, but he only played a handful of snaps his rookie year.
Halfway through the 2012 season when starting quarterback Alex Smith got hurt, Kaepernick proved with his play that he was ready to be their long-term starter. Smith made it hard for the 49ers to make the switch earlier because his play was so competent—the Raiders can only hope to get the same from Schaub.
For most of his career, Schaub has been a competent quarterback, but that wasn’t the case last year, when Schaub was benched in favor of rookie Case Keenum. But it’s worth noting that Smith was benched multiple times prior to head coach Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in 2011.
Should Schaub be unable to rebound like Smith, they do have a young quarterback in Carr who can take over if the team thinks he is ready. If Carr is still too green, the Raiders can turn to McGloin temporarily.
Prior to drafting Carr, there was no plan for how to acquire a quarterback of the future. Many fans assumed the Raiders would simply have to wait until next year. Raider fans obviously were hoping that Schaub was better in Oakland than he was in Houston.
The Raiders haven’t had such a clear plan at the quarterback position in a long time—perhaps ever in their history. Carr may not be a franchise quarterback immediately, but there is reason to be hopeful that he will be one day.
“Carr’s spread offense doesn’t provide definitive answers, but it does offer worthwhile clues about his future transition,” said Matt Waldman said via Football Outsiders. “Carr is not an instant star, but give him two to three years and he can be the quarterback a team can build around.”
The Raiders will take things slow with Carr with the hope that he is ready in a year or two to take over for Schaub. When that day comes, as it did for Kaepernick and Rodgers, the Raiders can hope they too are a perennial playoff team like the 49ers and Packers.
For the first time, the Raiders appear to be building something special instead of mortgaging the future for 8-8 seasons. Carr is exactly what the Raiders needed—a vision.