Start the Carr.
It doesn’t get any more obvious.
After Thursday’s performance against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in a 41-31 win—11-of-13 for 143 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions—Oakland Raiders rookie Derek Carr should start in Week 1 versus the New York Jets.
Head coach Dennis Allen tried to avoid a quarterback controversy by naming Matt Schaub his starter, but by sticking with him now, he’s only delaying the inevitable.
When the Raiders selected Carr with the 36th overall pick in May, they were making a statement that he was the future. The only question was when the future would arrive for a team that hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Rich Gannon.
According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle via Pro Football Talk, the chances Carr will start Week 1 are 100 percent. For good reason.
The Raiders brought in Schaub, 33, to give them a veteran option, but after the team selected Carr, he became a bridge to the future. So far this preseason, Schaub has been as incapable of carrying the team as the former eastern span of the Bay Bridge was at carrying traffic.
Schaub, who is nursing a sore elbow, sat back and watched Carr thrive versus Seattle's first- and second-team defense—a unit that embarrassed Peyton Manning's record-setting offense in last year's Super Bowl.
This is what the Raiders wanted when they selected Carr. This was general manager Reggie McKenzie’s vision. McKenzie and Allen just have to trust their evaluation and their eyes.
McKenzie is the protégé of former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who summed up the situation the Raiders now face perfectly.
"I would think in the ideal world everybody says you need to groom them slowly. I don't really believe that," said Ron Wolf via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. "I think this is one area where the game hasn't changed. If you don't have one of those guys [elite quarterbacks] you don't have a bleeping chance when you play on Sunday. It's a demoralizing experience. I had been through that for two years. It's an unbelievable feeling.
"However, if you get a guy that's good enough, he's good enough now. Not in all the nuances of the game, all the sophistications of the game, but he's good enough to play."
Yes, the Raiders would need to eat the $8 million Schaub is guaranteed in 2014, but look at it this way: Last season, Oakland guaranteed Matt Flynn $6.5 million and released him after five games in favor of Terrelle Pryor. After 10 games with Pryor as the starter, the Raiders knew that experiment was also over.
Sitting on Carr makes little sense short and long term. He can play now even if he has some learning to do.
If he becomes a legitimate quarterback, the Raiders will only have him under control for four seasons. Unlike a first-round pick, they don’t have an option for a fifth year. Delaying Carr’s maturation process only reduces the amount of time before Oakland would have to pay him.
If Carr isn’t the future, the Raiders need to know. As evidenced by the past 12 years in Oakland, finding a capable quarterback isn't easy. Carr certainly still has some learning to do, but he passed the preseason test. He'll need regular-season reps at some point regardless.
Carr wasn't perfect versus Seattle, but his talent and ability to make players around him better stood out. One such example was when his pass was tipped and tight end Mychal Rivera was able to secure it for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Carr’s arm strength was able to save him from interceptions and incompletions, like when he threaded a back-shoulder pass past star cornerback Richard Sherman to wide receiver Denarius Moore on third down to extend a drive that ended in a touchdown.
|Matt Schaub's Preseason Passing Chart|
|20-plus||0-of-2||0-of-2||1-of-2, 40 yards|
|10 to 19||1-of-2, 16 yards||0-of-3||0-of-2|
|0 to 9||8-of-11, 72 yards||4-of-8, 21 yards, 1 INT||2-of-2, 15 yards|
|Minus yards||1-of-2, 10 yards||5-of-6, 38 yards||2-of-2, 6 yards|
|NFL Preseason Live|
Carr also demonstrated improved pocket presence this preseason, and he was able to slide away from pressure and still throw accurately down the field, something Schaub has struggled with in Oakland.
Schaub has completed just two passes more than 10 yards down the field this preseason; Carr had three touchdown passes longer than 10 yards Thursday night alone. Schaub has been sacked three times playing with the first-team offensive line; Carr wasn’t sacked Thursday night playing with the same unit. Carr has also been sacked just two times this preseason.
The decision is clear. The only question is if the Raiders will make the right choice.