The Raiders found their quarterback last season in Derek Carr. The 2014 second-round draft selection from Fresno State was the first rookie in team history to start all 16 games and he went on to break every franchise rookie passing record.
After an impressive first season, Carr will start his second season with a new position coach. Todd Downing joins the Raiders after four seasons in Detroit and, most recently, one season in Buffalo.
Coach Downing coached Lions QB Matthew Stafford as the young quarterback quickly went on to become the team's all-time leader in completions, attempts and yards.
Coach Downing sees several similarities between Stafford and the Raiders QB. "They're very similar, not only skill set-wise, but personality-wise," said Coach Downing. "They're both 'the guy.' They walk into a room and you know they're the guy. That's the first step to a highly successful quarterback is someone who has that confidence and - I don't like the word swagger, that's for wide receivers and DBs and all that – a guy that has that 'it' factor, if you will."
Both quarterbacks earn their success on a daily basis. "There's that old cliché that respect is earned not given. There are some guys that earn it each day when they walk in the building and you see the way they work, and the approach they take and how important football is to them, and Matthew [Stafford] certainly had that and I know Derek has that as well. We haven't had a lot of opportunity to see Derek in the building [yet] with the rules, but everybody tells me that as the season went on last year he just grew and grew in leadership and did a great job."
Coach Downing develops relationships with his quarterbacks, earns their trust and guides them to be successful on the field. "It's a very discussion-oriented position. By nature, the quarterbacks are very intelligent and understand the game from all aspects and so I like more of that open forum meeting style, which you gives you the opportunity to really get to know each other more than just the surface," he explained. "I coach with expectations and accountability. I like setting a standard for my players and then holding them responsible for it. I'm not a screamer or yeller; I'm more of a supportive coach and I think I'm someone that can help find different ways to approach problem solving. I like building relationships with the people that I work with so that when you're in the trenches together you know you can count on each other."
He also thinks relationships with his fellow coaches are important and he's excited to work with new Raiders Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave. "I've also been very fortunate to have strong mentors in this profession. Scott Linehan kind of raised me in this league, and I learned a lot from him and his quarterback expertise," said Coach Downing. "Now I get to do it again with a guy with a little different perspective on it, being Bill, and we've just hit it off. I think the relationship between the quarterbacks coach and the coordinator is one that has to be a perfect synergy, and so far we've hit it off great."
He also has the opportunity to learn and work with Mike Tice, who has experience as an offensive coordinator and head coach.
"I think it's that genuine passion. He's a lifer," said Coach Downing about Coach Tice. "He's been doing this all his life, playing and coaching, and somebody that's dedicated that much time and energy to this profession, you have no choice but to be passionate about it. I think it's just that genuine drive to be great all the time and it's fun to be around."
Coach Downing is new to the Silver and Black, but he already has an appreciation for what it means to be a Raider. "I think there's an unbelievable tradition here," he said. "I think the respect for the people that have come before you, not only at your position, but across the board in the building, is paramount to understanding what it means to be an Oakland Raider. I think you need to appreciate everything that has been done before you and do your best to add to the legacy and never ever do anything to tarnish it."
The Raiders new quarterbacks coach has seen the passion of Raider Nation in person and wants to uphold the Raiders legacy on their behalf. "I know that they're very exuberant in their support of the team. I'm pretty fired up to be on the other side of that," he explained. "I've been the visitor in this stadium and felt the wrath of Raider Nation, but I'm excited to be supported by it now."
Coach Downing understands the pressure and the responsibility in being an NFL quarterback. The way he coaches on the practice field and in the meeting room is always with the goal of developing a successful quarterback that will lead the team to victory.
"I want Raider Nation to know that they're going to get the hardest working group of quarterbacks that they could possibly get," said Downing. "We're always striving to get better. We're always trying to make them proud and we always want to give them something to cheer for. As long as they know that Derek and the rest of us will be putting our best foot forward each and every Sunday, I think they'll be able to feel the excitement with us."