2017 was supposed to be the year.
Flashback to Christmas Eve 2016; the Oakland Raiders were 11-3, had just secured their first postseason berth since 2002, and were on the precipice of an AFC West title.
The team was led by Derek Carr, who up to that point had put together an MVP-caliber season, and was in the type of zone that was more akin to Drew Brees or Tom Brady than a player who at the time was in just his third, NFL season.
Well, we all know what happened after that; Carr fractured his fibula in the second half of a blowout win over the Indianapolis Colts, and just a few weeks later, the Silver and Black fell to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
But, even in the wake of the disappointing loss at NRG Stadium, optimism abounded headed into 2017.
Carr was healthy, the potent Raiders offense had added even more weapons out wide, and Marshawn Lynch, yes, that Marshawn Lynch, came out of retirement to play for his hometown team.
And then, 2017 happened.
At season’s end, Carr and the Raiders owned a 6-10 record that ultimately resulted in Jack Del Rio losing his job, and now, a few months clear of the coaching staff turnover, Carr reflected on what his fourth, NFL season was like.
“It was hard,” said Carr. “Last year was hard because, like man, why? I’m so glad that is done. I do feel better, physically, mentally, emotionally, feel better. It’s hard. The NFL is hard. It’s hard to lose, especially when certain things you’re just like man, why is this happening? You try and work longer hours. You try and work harder and you can’t figure it out. It does feel nice to hit the reset button, start over.”
That fresh start has resulted in Carr’s fourth head coach, but Jon Gruden, Greg Olson and the rest of the offensive staff have not only breathed new life and energy into No. 4, but provided him with a sense of consistency as well.
And hopefully consistency off the field, will lead to positive results on it.
“Me and Coach Gruden, he said to hit the reset button and then we have hopefully 10-plus years to let’s just ride and figure this thing out, grow every year and do this thing,” Carr explained. “When a coach comes in and just does that for everybody, not just me, but for everybody, it’s just that weight is lifted off. It’s like, ‘OK, that’s done. Whatever that was, let’s just move forward. Let’s just have fun together and work hard.’ That’s all I know. For the next however many years I play this game, one thing that people won’t be able to say about me is that he didn’t leave it all out there. I’m going to turn over every rock that I can find that someone else can find for me and just go forward. Those four years went by fast. I’m already in Year 5. That’s crazy. I did learn that I’m just going to enjoy the heck out of this thing on the way out.”
At just 27 years old, Carr still has yet to even see the twilight of his career start to on the horizon, but with all the tools to be a top-tier NFL quarterback, and now paired Gruden, the quarterback whisperer, expectations are understandably high for the Raiders going forward.
“I meet with him [Gruden] every morning,” Carr said. “He’ll say something to me in that meeting at 5:30 and then he won’t bring it up the rest of the day, and then he’ll throw it at me in practice. That’s after all the meetings, after all the conversations, after all of those things to make sure that I’m on top of the little thing in the morning. He just continues to push me to get absolutely everything out of me. It’s been really cool, I’m not going to lie. It’s been a blessing, that’s for sure.”
A healthy, energized, motivated Derek Carr in 2018; now that’s something that defenses around the league should be afraid to see.