The Las Vegas Raiders recently failed to make it to the postseason for the fourth straight year. Worse still, since losing the Super Bowl back in 2002, they’ve made just one playoff appearance, in 2016. That season saw the 12-4 Raiders promptly eliminated by the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round.
For a team that has been stuck in the doldrums for most of the 21st century, the Raiders are feeling the pressure to make some impactful changes. Perhaps the biggest debate at the moment involves whether it’s time to cut ties with quarterback Derek Carr.
The Las Vegas Raiders’ 2020 season
2020 was the Raiders’ first season in their new home city of Las Vegas. Fans of the franchise hoped that that change of scenery might give the Raiders a new sense of purpose and success.
For the first half of the season, it looked like that might be true, with the Raiders posting a 6-3 record, while notching wins against competitive teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.
Yet the Raiders followed up that promising opening by dropping five of their finals seven games. To make matters even more heartbreaking for Raiders fans, that stretch included a three-point overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and a heartbreaking last-second loss to the Miami Dolphins.
That loss put the final nail in the Raiders’ playoff hopes for another season.
Derek Carr’s performance at quarterback
The frustrating thing about the Raiders is that they aren’t that bad a team on paper. USA Today has argued somewhat convincingly that head coach Jon Gruden deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the team’s struggles. Still, the biggest talking point these days is whether the Raiders should keep quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr didn’t have a bad season by any means. In fact, he set a new personal record for passing yards, with a total of 4,103. He also connected on 67.3% of his passes — good for the 10thth best completion rate in the league, per ESPN. ESPN’s statistics also give Carr the 11th best quarterback rating in 2020.
Should the Las Vegas Raiders move on from Derek Carr?
Carr remains an above-average quarterback in virtually all of the major metrics, despite not having been selected for a Pro Bowl since 2017. Carr’s believers point to the Raiders’ historically bad defense as the main cause of their disappointing season.
By fixing the defense, and maybe making an upgrade or two at receiver, the Raiders should be able to turn things around.
Yet Carr actually seems to struggle the most when the Raiders’ defense is good. As Associated Press reporter Josh Dubow recently tweeted a sobering stat: Carr has just a .571 career winning percentage when the Raiders’ defense allows less than 20 points. That would seem to indicate that Carr simply lacks the kind of winning gene necessary for true franchise success.
If the Raiders did decide to walk away from Carr, they could do so without much of a financial loss. According to Spotrac, the team would only have to eat about $2.5 million of dead cap left on Carr’s contract. Promoting backup QB Marcus Mariotta — who has looked good in limited minutes for the Raiders — would be a cost-effective move for next season.
Yet that kind of decision would hardly improve the Raiders’ chances of fielding a competitive team. A better bet would be to try and trade Carr for another proven veteran — or at least a young player with a higher potential upside. Otherwise, the Raiders’ best chances of making the playoffs next year will likely come with Carr at quarterback once again.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference