Derek Carr Isn't Ready, but He's Clearly Better for Raiders Than Matt Schaub

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Derek Carr Isn't Ready, but He's Clearly Better for Raiders Than Matt Schaub
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen's head-coaching career comes to an untimely end this offseason, there's no question what quote will be used in the obituary.

"We brought Matt Schaub in to be our starting quarterback," Allen told the media in a March conference call, per the team's official site. "He’s been a top 10 quarterback throughout his career."

After two preseason games, he's completed just 55 percent of his passes for just 5.4 yards per attempt, no touchdowns and an interception. Whatever spark the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback used to impart to offenses has gone out.

Meanwhile, second-round rookie Derek Carr electrified the O.co Coliseum crowd in the second half, with obvious talent and a few big plays.

Is there a quarterback controversy brewing in Oakland?

Frankly, no. As Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News implied on Twitter, Carr is visibly better:

 

The Hot Hand

Carr's talent was obvious throughout the draft evaluation cycle. As I wrote last March, NFL experts disagreed wildly on Carr, with evaluations and grades all over the map. His size, mobility, effortless release and tremendous arm strength gives him the ability to make jaw-dropping throws.

We saw that arm talent on display several times, like when he hit a wide-open Greg Little for a 38-yard bomb, taking the Raiders to the doorstep of the endzone.

However, Carr also struggled mightily with consistency and accuracy, especially in the face of a pass rush. We saw that, too, on Carr's first pass attempt: he airmailed a seam pass to a wide-open tight end, Brian Leonhardt.

Allen elected to keep starters and top contributors out much longer than the Lions' Jim Caldwell did, though, and Carr was easily able to move the ball and put up points against the Lions' second-team defense.

The inordinate number of penalties (in both directions) skewed this a bit, but the Raiders got points on three of the four full drives Carr commanded. Not only did he complete a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Murphy, he had another overturned when replay showed James Jones didn't come down in bounds.

With Allen, general manager Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders fanbase desperately needing to rack up some W's this season, it must be tempting to turn to the hot hand.

 

The Right Choice

Carr, though, isn't quite ready yet.

All told, Carr completed 56.3 percent of his passes, for 6.82 yards per attempt and a touchdown, per ESPN.com. However, more than a few of Carr's 16 attempts were screen passes, and a 56.3 percent completion rate is far from dominant. The ball looked great flying out of his hand, but then it always does.

Against a defense playing mostly second- and third-stringers, Carr's squad of mostly-starters had a big talent advantage. To prove that he's better than Schaub right now, Carr would have to get some significant time against first-team defenses—and now, that would mean starting the all-important "dress rehearsal" Week 3 preseason game, which wouldn't be wise if the Raiders still plan to start Schaub when the regular season opens.

After two straight seasons of transition, it still looks like the Oakland Raiders are a team in transition. The defense isn't there yet. The offense isn't there yet. This team doesn't look capable of contending for the playoffs.

If Allen and McKenzie remain employed after another year of losing football, they'll be glad they were patient with Carr and brought him along at his own pace—after all, his big brother David was the poster child for young quarterbacks whose development got derailed for starting right away on subpar teams.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Carr has the talent to lock down the Raiders quarterback job for years to come; that's why it's crucial that Allen bring Carr along at his own pace. Throwing him to the wolves just because Allen doesn't have a better veteran option would spell disaster for Carr and mean yet another wasted high draft pick for the Raiders.

Carr's time will come, and sooner this season rather than later.

That time just isn't quite now.

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