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Derek Carr on Raiders dugout: Can veteran QB follow in Matthew Stafford's footsteps?

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I’ve seen a lot of divided opinions about Derek Carr, with his bench signaling the potential end of his Raiders career.

They ranged from… he might be a top 10 QB and has been held back by the Raiders defense his entire career… to… he’s an average QB who has underperformed this season following the acquisition of Davante Adams.

Perhaps there is some truth to all this. One of the first things that popped into my mind is that he’s been a good quarterback for nearly a decade with a bad team. In a way, it reminds me of Matthew Stafford’s tenure with the Lions. So is it possible for Carr to leave the Raiders and follow in Stafford’s footsteps?

Here I examine the case for and against:

case for

The case for this comparison is built on the striking similarities between Stafford’s time with the Lions and Carr’s time with the Raiders.

Both are franchise leaders

Both are the all-time passing leaders for the respective franchise. Stafford is the Lions’ all-time touchdown passing leader among nearly every other category, and the same can be said for Carr with the Raiders.

0 playoff wins/division titles

Despite amassing numbers for their teams for about a decade, none have won a playoff game or won a division title with their original teams. Stafford was 0-3 in the postseason with Detroit, who were consistently second to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the division.

Carr is 0-1 in the playoffs with Las Vegas, who had to compete with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in the AFC West.

Worst Defense in the NFL

The Lions and Raiders had two of the worst defenses in the league with these quarterbacks. Detroit had the second worst scoring defense with Stafford from 2009-2020. The Raiders have the worst scoring defense in the NFL since Carr was drafted in 2014. In fact, Carr is the least supported QB in NFL history in terms of scoring defense. The Raiders allowed 26.1 PPG in their games, the worst by any starting QB ever (min. 100 games).

They’ll also extend one of my favorite trends in the sport this year – 2022 will be the Raiders’ 20th consecutive season ranking in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense, the longest such streak since the 1970 NFL merger.

Most NFL Losses

Bad defense will do that to you. Carr has the most shutouts of any quarterback since he entered the league. Stafford had the second-most losses of any QB during his Lions career (2009-20).

Both led the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks

Stafford and Carr have always been good for a thrilling comeback, thanks to productive careers paired with defenses that rarely let them off the hook. Stafford led the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks during his career with the Lions, and Carr led the league in that category with the Raiders.

lawsuit against

Stafford is a better overall QB than Carr

Stafford was the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 and Carr was a second-round selection in 2014. Stafford has more arm talent, enough that the Rams were willing to give up two first-round picks to acquire him (and offload the Jared Goff contract) in 2021. I doubt Carr is priced anywhere near that.

League coaches and executives agree that Stafford is better than Carr, but not by much.

Stafford was ranked slightly ahead of Carr in the 2021 and 2022 annual QB categories by Mike Sando of The Athletic. The levels are the results of a survey of GMs, coaches, and executives across the league.

Stafford also ranked sixth in ESPN Jeremy Fowler’s Top 10 QB Jeremy Fowler rankings for 2021 and 2022, which are derived from a poll of more than 50 league executives, coaches and scouts. Carr was an honorable mention both years, but did not make the top 10.

The numbers would also agree. Carr never ranked higher than 10th on ESPN’s QBR Total in nine seasons with the Raiders. His average ranking was 19th. Stafford’s average QBR ranking with the Lions was 15th and he placed in the top eight in three of his last five seasons in Detroit.

This offseason has proved that Stafford’s plan isn’t easy to follow.

Acquiring a veteran quarterback was the hot new project this offseason after Tom Brady won the Super Bowl in 2020 and Matthew Stafford won in 2021. The performances of Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Baker Mayfield proved that it’s not so easy to act to repeat and the team might not be as willing to make a big investment in a guy like Carr this offseason.

Carr may not find a landing spot like the Rams

When Stafford signed with the Rams, he was seen as the missing piece to be an upgrade on Goff, two years after they lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Los Angeles had a No. 1 defense and Cooper Kupp, among other enticing plays. Among the logical landing spots, I’m not sure there’s such a fate for Carr in 2023, though the Jets with their defense Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson might be the closest bet.

Add it all up, and as similar as their careers with the Lions and Raiders respectively have been, it would take a lot for the stars to align for Carr as they did for Stafford. The circumstances surrounding his departure from each franchise would also be different. Still, I think a lot of people would be rooting for better circumstances for Carr after a decade with the Raiders.