The Oakland Raiders traded a sixth-round pick for quarterback Matt Schaub this offseason and immediately named him their starting quarterback. General manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen were hoping they could get Schaub to play for them as he did prior to a disastrous 2013 in Houston.
Allen has reiterated all offseason that Schaub is the starter for 2014, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported this week that Schaub would be starting come Week 1 of the regular season. The Raiders simply haven’t allowed there to be a quarterback controversy.
After Friday’s 31-21 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers, it’s now perfectly clear that the Raiders need to make a change at quarterback, even if they are too stubborn to do so. The Raiders simply do not have the offensive talent to overcome Schaub’s lack of arm strength, poor mobility and average decision-making.
Aiding the decision to make a quarterback switch is the fact that the Raiders have two alternatives whom are better equipped to have success as the team is currently constructed. Either Oakland’s second-round pick Derek Carr or second-year man Matt McGloin have skills that Schaub simply doesn’t possess.
The first consideration should be Carr, whom McKenzie drafted with the hope that he could become the franchise quarterback. By drafting Carr, McKenzie was making it clear that Schaub was just keeping the seat warm. All Schaub has done so far is throw ice water on that seat, which should prompt the Raiders to make a change before they start losing games that count.
Schaub’s lack of zip on passes over 10 yards has to be a concern for the Raiders, especially when the receivers and tight ends aren’t getting much separation. There are ways to work around a lack of arm strength, but it typically requires a good running game, top-end talent at wide receiver, a cohesive offensive line, and smart, quick decisions by the quarterback.
|20+||0 for 1|
|10-19||0 for 1||0 for 1|
|0-9||4 for 6, 39 yards||1 for 3, 8 yards, 1 INT||2 for 2, 15 yards|
|Minus Yards||1 for 1, 10 yards||2 for 3, 28 yards||1 for 1, 8 yards|
Coming into the game, Schaub had attempted just three passes over 10 yards this preseason with no completions, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Schaub didn’t have much more success against the Packers, completing just one of five deep pass attempts. Schaub did have two other deep attempts that drew defensive penalties, but neither looked that close to being completions.
Oakland’s rebuilt offensive line is also struggling in pass protection. The Green Bay Packers had three sacks against Oakland’s offensive line, but that doesn’t give a full picture of the problem. In particular, left guard Khalif Barnes and right tackle Menelik Watson had issues blocking pass-rushers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews.
Schaub lacks the mobility to escape a dirty pocket and extend plays, which is the only way Oakland receivers are going to get open on a consistent basis. Even if Schaub could move around a little better, his arm strength becomes a detriment as defenders can more easily drive on his short passes.
Given his skill set, the only way Schaub can be successful given the talent around him is to use his brain. Schaub has to make good, lightning quick decisions so he can deliver the ball into a tight window before the defense can react. Schaub’s been too slow to make decisions and defense have already started teeing off.
Schaub is also responsible for adjusting protections and changing plays, which should help him, in theory. So far, the jury is out. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson explained that some of Oakland’s protection issues last week were Schaub's fault.
“We had one missed defensive line gain on a third down. But, the other two pressures was an empty pressure in which there is a player unaccounted for that Matt Schaub needed to recognize,” Olson said via Raiders.com on Tuesday. “He didn’t recognize it until it was too late.”
“He needed to recognize that a little sooner and that, to the naked eye, looked like our O-line is letting a guy come free. That’s on the quarterback because that’s an empty protection.”
Unfortunately for the Raiders, Schaub’s decision-making this preseason has not been the best. It’s his first year in a new offensive system after many years in Gary Kubiak’s scheme, so some of his problems could stem from an incomplete understanding of the new system. Some of it may just be the nature of the preseason, but it’s a concern anytime the starting quarterback is making predetermined reads as Schaub did on a simple slant route against the Packers in the first half Friday night.
As we’ve seen this preseason, defensive backs have been able to break on Schaub’s passes with relative ease. Once good defenses scheme and adjust for Schaub’s weaknesses, there’s a chance he could turn into the quarterback that threw what seemed like a million interceptions (actually 14) for Houston last season. If that happens, the Raiders have little chance of fielding a competitive team with Schaub at quarterback in 2014.
It just no longer makes sense to waste time starting Schaub when the Raiders could be developing Carr. There’s very little risk in making Carr the starter because he not only gives the Raiders a better chance to win than Schaub now, but he’ll learn from experience instead of holding a clipboard.
If it seems like déjà vu, it’s because it’s a very similar situation to last year except Carr is a more promising passer than Terrelle Pryor. Carr is just a rookie, whereas Pryor had two seasons to mature on the bench before starting nine games in 2013.
Unless the coaches feel like starting Carr would ruin him, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep him benched while Schaub continues to play poorly. Even if Schaub can correct some of his issues, he’s going to find it difficult to be successful with his current skill set with the pieces around him.
Carr has a rocket arm and the mobility to escape pressure, which are two skills that are proving to be vital to success in Oakland. Carr still has plenty to work on, but fans will be much more forgiving of a rookie making mistakes than a veteran.
If Carr needs a little more seasoning, the Raiders could turn to McGloin to keep the seat warm. Carr missed Friday’s game with sore ribs as a precaution, and he could have used the live reps to make his case to start.
Which quarterback should start Week 1 for the Raiders?
Instead, the Raiders could now target Week 6 for Carr’s first start. It’s Oakland’s fifth game and it comes after the bye week at home against the San Diego Chargers. That’s the ideal situation if the Raiders are going to consider an in-season switch because it’s in front of the home crowd, and there will be extra preparation time against a defense not expected to be all that strong.
McGloin can tackle a brutal early stretch of games that includes two trips to the East Coast, a meeting with the Houston Texans and defensive ends J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and a trip to London. McGloin defied the odds by making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He started six games last season.
McGloin has played very well this preseason, albeit mostly against third-string defenses. He threw a game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Brice Butler against the Detroit Lions last week and two more touchdowns to Butler Friday night.
Like Carr, McGloin has the arm strength and mobility to be more successful than Schaub in this offense. The former Penn State Nittany Lion is a bit of a gunslinger who will make poor decisions at times, but he’s also able to make some big plays with an average supporting cast. In six starts in 2013, McGloin had eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Starting McGloin could be a bit of a compromise if there is any disagreement about when it would be best to start Carr. He is the only quarterback on the roster with two years in offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s system, which makes him uniquely qualified to hold down the position for a couple weeks.
The only way it makes sense to stick with Schaub at this point is if he, the wide receivers and offensive line can improve significantly in the next two weeks. That seems unlikely, so it seem prudent to give the two younger quarterbacks a shot to carry the team.