- Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr isn’t concerned about Marcus Mariota potentially seeing increased action
- Mariota scored a touchdown in the Raiders’ Thanksgiving Day victory over the Dallas Cowboys
- Carr is open to the idea, and he may need the 2014 Heisman Trophy’s help to reach the postseason
Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders find themselves at a critical crossroads. The long-suffering franchise entered December at 6-5 and, by all miracles, are still alive in the AFC playoff picture.
In an attempt to spark the offense over the season’s final month, the Raiders are expected to find a more prominent for backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, who scored a touchdown in the team’s ugly overtime and penalty-filled victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Carr, for his money — and he’s earning nearly $20 million as the starting quarterback — isn’t against the idea.
Derek Carr isn’t trying to worry about Marcus Mariota potentially seeing increased action
If the Raiders want to reach the postseason for only the second time since 2003, they need some form of offensive boost. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia sees Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, as the man who could provide such a change and recently confirmed the backup will be “part of the packages” moving forward.
Mariota, who turned 28 on Oct. 30, played a season-high two snaps in the Raiders’ 36-33 victory on Thanksgiving. Although the mobile quarterback is yet to throw a pass in 2021, he has rushed for 45 yards on five carries.
The next step could be giving Mariota far more snaps as a gadget weapon, similar to what the New Orleans Saints have done with Taysom Hill. For what it’s worth, Hill averaged 21 snaps in his first seven games this year; he started at quarterback and took all 70 snaps in a Week 13 loss to the Cowboys.
Although more snaps for Mariota could mean fewer for Carr, the latter isn’t complaining. According to ProFootballTalk, the three-time Pro Bowler said he believes the strategic change will make defenses “waste some of their meeting time on this.”
“You saw it work in New Orleans with Taysom [Hill] when Drew [Brees] was there, and they were still throwing the ball all over the place. And it’s helping us do some different things. … I mean, [Mariota] won a Heisman Trophy doing it.”Derek Carr
Carr also dismissed the idea that he’d be frustrated or change his relationship with Mariota if the latter saw more action.
“I don’t care how we do it; I just want to win the football game,” Carr said, adding, “[Mariota] has my back all the time. He’s there to help.”
Mariota is the perfect option if the Raiders want to use a two-quarterback system
Invoking Hill’s name is the best thing Carr could have done to ease any concerns about the idea of a two-quarterback system. The BYU product emerged as a fearsome playmaker and change-of-pace quarterback option in 2019, Brees’ penultimate season, and has remained in that role through December 2021.
Mariota, the second overall pick in 2015, entered the league with far greater expectations than Hill, who went undrafted in 2017. The Oregon legend also has substantial starting experience and went 29-32 while leading the Tennessee Titans from 2015-19.
Like Hill, Mariota can beat teams with his legs, and he’s not exactly working with a noodle arm. If he’s willing to play a variety of roles — blocker, receiver, even throwing a pass or three — and the Raiders are open to using him that way, a MariotaCat package might be exactly what Las Vegas needs right now.
Mariota’s Thanksgiving Day touchdown served as a reminder of what he can do with the ball in his hands. He still has the agility and the vision to embarrass defenders, a fact oft-criticized Cowboys edge rusher Leighton Vanden Esch learned firsthand.
Carr can also use the next few weeks to help his potential 2022 trade value
Any conversation about changes in the Raiders’ quarterback room needs to include a discussion about Carr’s long-term future in Las Vegas. The Fresno State product is under contract through the end of next season and, as of publication, has not been linked to any credible extension rumors.
Carr entered Week 13 having completed 67.3% of his passes for 3,414 yards, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 2021. He turns 31 in March and has an opportunity, albeit a difficult one, to post his fourth consecutive season without double-digit interceptions.
Whether or not Carr is long for Vegas could be dependent on the upcoming quarterback market. Now, if Aaron Rodgers is available and wants to wear the Silver and Black, that greatly changes the equation, as it should. Carr’s age and recent success (he owns a 68.5 completion percentage and an 84-36 TD-INT ratio since the start of the 2018 season) would then make him an intriguing fit for several teams.
For now, Carr is focused on finally starting a playoff game. If a Mariota-led package is the key to him accomplishing that goal, he’s willing to spend a bit more time on the bench.