Quarterback Derek Carr
Derek Carr wanted to be on the field yesterday at NRG Stadium – more than anything in fact – but a broken fibula forced him to be a spectator in the Oakland Raiders first playoff game since 2002, so Saturday afternoon, like many others, he turned into a fan, granted a fan that knew the idiosyncrasies of the team's offense better than almost anyone.
"I was just on my couch, just at my house," said Carr. "My wife was there, my boys. [Rod] Streater came by and watched the game with me. He hung out with me so that was fun. We had a good time."
While Carr was forced to be a spectator, and watch his teammates from home, the Raiders starting quarterback was definitely an active spectator, as he took in the Raiders Wild Card game against the Houston Texans with a copy of the game plan in hand, looking at what the defense was showing to Connor Cook throughout the course of the 27-14 loss.
And as Carr said, he was fully aware of the challenges that Cook was going to inevitably face against a Houston Texans that statistically speaking, was the best in the NFL.
"He [Cook] won't ever be in a tougher situation than he was then," Carr said. "His first action, real, being the starter action, was in the playoffs, against the number one defense on paper, in football. It will never be harder for him, and I told him that. I said, 'bro, you made great throws. I saw your decisions – even though not a lot of people could see it – I saw what you were doing. Are there things you want to correct? Yeah, absolutely. I have the same feelings after every game.'…. I've seen how much better he's gotten since he got here. He's going to be a great player in this league. I'm not worried about him."
As frustrating as it was to be relegated to watching the Raiders first playoff game in 14 years from home, Carr was happy to sit back and fill the role of the fan, particularly in the second half when wide receiver Andre Holmes got rolling, both offensively, and on special teams.
"Coach [Jon] Gruden said it best on the TV, he said, 'Andre is one of Derek Carr's favorites,' and he's right," Carr said. "I love that guy, man. The way he continues to compete. The way he continues to work. He's been the same guy ever since I got him. He's never changed. He always works his tail off on special teams. He runs as hard as he can in practice, and that's why he makes the plays he does on special teams."
Since being carted out of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum December 24, it's been an interesting few weeks for No. 4. He's had to deal with not only the injury that prematurely ended his MVP-caliber season, but also remain the spiritual, and emotional leader – as best he could – for the Silver and Black.
And as Carr admitted, it hasn't been the easiest few weeks of his short career.
"In the last two weeks, I've become a better man, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, I've gotten better," Carr explained. "I told [Donald Penn] obviously, it sucks for our team. It sucked that I couldn't play, but for myself, I've gotten better, so I'm kind of excited that I've been able to grow already in just [this] short amount of time."
While the season is over, and the Raiders won't be returning to Houston to play in Super Bowl LI, Carr knows that what he and his teammates were able to do this season is something to be proud of, particularly as they head into 2017 and beyond.
"What we did hasn't been done here in a long time, and that's something to feel good about it, but the thing that hurts is what's going to motivate us for the future," Carr said. "The thing that sits in our heart and makes us sick to our stomach, that, that competitiveness, that drive, is what's going to continue to help us get better."