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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.
Happy 2023! I hope this edition of It's Not Gonna Write Itself finds you well. I'm currently gearing up to get back to all the Hyphen Universe things: Hyphen Nation, Rasslecast Power Hour, YouTube, etc.
But I'm also realizing that it's okay to tell myself no. I wanted to record Hyphen Nation tonight but instead, I relaxed, ate, and then made Angel dinner. I thought about recording an hour or so ago but then decided I would wait for the 22nd to release the next episode instead of the 17th. The world didn't end. And plus, I got inspired to write the piece you're about to read.
I hope you're making new rules for yourself that's better for your mental health as well.
As we proceed….
That's my quarterback.
Since I was born in 1983, here is a list of every starting Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders quarterback:
Billy Joe Holbert
And for the past nine seasons until Week 16, Derek Dallas Carr. Only Wilson, Schroeder, Hostetler, and Gannon had at least four consecutive seasons as the Raiders starter before Derek.
I won’t be writing about his stats. I’ll be writing about how I feel now that Derek posted his official goodbye to the Raiders Nation today on Instagram.
I knew absolutely nothing of Derek Carr when the Raiders drafted him. I was pretty tapped into the pulse of college football and the NFL then and all I knew was that he was David Carr’s brother. And after watching his struggles in Houston, I pretty much assumed the Raiders would continue to lose.
So when he was named QB1 before the start of the 2014 season, I was surprised. The Raiders had just traded for Matt Schaub, who was only two years removed from taking the Texans to the playoffs. Why in the hell would they start the rookie quarterback when most franchises draft a QB with the intention of bringing them on slowly as they adjust to playing in the NFL?
I waited 11 weeks for an answer. The Raiders lost their first 10 games. But they weren’t bad losses other than getting steamrolled by the high power Broncos, but they were still losses. But something felt different. We were losing but I routinely saw the offense looking to Derek to lead them, this rookie who had been thrown to the wolves. And I didn’t think a winless season would happen even though it looked inevitable.
A November Monday night win over the hated Chiefs proved me right. The Raiders had their first win and the Derek Carr era had officially begun.
Not to mention that it halted a 16 game losing streak going back to the previous season.
Not to be that guy, but for the first in forever (since Gannon), I didn't have to worry about the QB. I hoped JaMarcus would've been the answer. I thought getting Palmer out of Cincinnati would turn around our fortunes. I thought Oakland was the perfect place for Matt Flynn to blossom after Russell Wilson took a starting spot in Seattle that was earmarked for him (a $26 million dollar earmark).
But it was this 23 year old from Bakersfield, California that brought balance to the position.
7 wins in 2015.
An MVP-caliber 2016 season that was tragically cut short by injury in Week 16 as the Raiders went 12-4, the best mark since 1990 (and the most wins the franchise has had in 16 game seasons). We lost in the first round but the sky was the limit.
The 2016 magic wasn't recaptured the next season but I thought it was just Derek adapting to life after the injury.
The Raiders brought back Gruden.
2018, 2019, 2020 had no playoff appearances.
At least they still had QB1.
Gruden was fired in 2021, the team got hot, and Derek played in his first playoff game.
Unfortunately, the Bengals were hotter.
And this season, despite early struggles, the team was riding a winning streak and in the hunt to return to the playoffs.
But the theme of the season was blown leads as losses to the Rams and Steelers were blamed on Derek's inability to lead the Raiders back every time the defense failed as almost no accountability was put on first year coach Josh McDaniels.
Then the benching happened.
Okay, I apologize if you knew all of this before we got to this point but you have to know how we got here.
Nine years as the starting quarterback in one place in the NFL looks great on any resume. Two playoff appearances with no wins doesn't. Few teams are able to keep the same coaching personnel the entire time they have the same quarterback. So while Derek did have several different coaches and coordinators, there's only so long before the blame falls on your starting quarterback.
Very few teams have had to deal with the distractions of an Antonio Brown or Jon Gruden. Or things like losing Kahlil Mack, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree. But even with all of that, the Raiders had to hold Derek accountable at some point. He couldn't be QB1 forever as much as I would've liked for him to spend his entire career with the team.
I'm sure several Detroit fans felt the same way about Matt Stafford.
Three Pro Bowl appearances but the league never considered Derek elite. Hell, neither did I. But he had shown me many times that he could lead this team and he was more than able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That was enough for me! Never heard anything bad about the guy. He just went home to his family and loved being a Raider, distractions be damned.
But that's not good enough to keep you QB1 your entire career, especially not in Las Vegas. You know, Commitment to Excellence, Just Win Baby? Not here. And probably not anywhere else. Another team maybe wouldn't have been as patient. So I understand.
I thought he deserved to finish out the season but it's impossible to trade a quarterback if he's hurt. Derek pardoned himself from the team for the final weeks as they almost beat San Francisco and got mocked in their loss to Kansas City.
And this week, instead of Mark Davis hiring a new coach (I have zero faith in McDaniels guys, I hope he proves me wrong), we get the official goodbye from my favorite QB1. I guess Gannon would be next with soft spots for Hostetler and Jason Campbell (the Raiders were 8-2 the year he broke his collarbone).
So here's to you Derek Carr. I wish you all the best. I hope it's not with Denver, the Chargers, or the Chiefs by some twist of cruel fate. I hope you do win a Super Bowl. I hope it's not against Las Vegas. And I look forward to seeing you return to the team after your career, where you will hopefully get the rightful praise you deserve from a grateful Raiders Nation.
And who knows? You'll be 34 this year with only one major injury so far. Maybe you'll be gone for a few years and a new regime will bring you back to mentor the new young QB. Maybe that QB will be forced out of action and your number will be called. Maybe the Raiders ride the hot hand and you go from being a backup finishing your career where you started to answering questions at media day about Las Vegas' crazy path back to the Super Bowl.
And maybe you could still bring the Lombardi trophy back to the silver and black before you hang up your cleats.
That would be very cool.
My dad loved the Raiders and it was the first thing I may have learned from him. By the late '80s, I was at least aware of who Bo Jackson was and that he was on the Raiders. I couldn't tell you what their record was or anything though. I vaguely recall playing video games with my cousin Royal and choosing the Raiders but then getting stomped out by the Giants. It might have even been my first time playing a football game.
As I got into trading cards, I slowly began to learn more about the history and the personnel of the silver and black. By 1992, I was knowledgeable enough to celebrate a Raiders win over Washington in a house full of R******* fans. In 1993, I celebrated the first playoff berth and win that I was aware of.
And then I was introduced to the pain of following a losing football team.
But I'm here to talk about Derek, so high (and low) lights:
2000 - Tony Siragusa (RIP) blatantly injured Gannon
2001 - Tuck Rule
2002 - Super Bowl appearance to get rolled by the racist and homophobic coach we traded to Tampa Bay