It has not been a well-kept secret that Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and embattled quarterback Derek Carr have had somewhat of a contentious relationship over the past two seasons.
Las Vegas flirted with the idea of trading Carr during the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. It was also linked to multiple big-name quarterbacks before settling on former Tennessee Titans No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota.
With their first training camp in the Vegas suburb of Henderson having already started, Gruden is out here praising Mariota at every turn. It could also lead to some questions about Carr’s status as the Raiders’ Week 1 starter.
“(Carr) really fired me up today,” Gruden said Friday, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic. “He has turned a corner with his ankle (injury) and he is a dazzling playmaker. He had a very nice day.”
Reading between the lines
- During his time as an analyst on ESPN before a second stint with the Raiders, Gruden didn’t keep quiet his love of dual-threat quarterbacks. He was especially a fan of Mr. Mariota leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft.
- Mariota brings another layer to Las Vegas’ complex offense under Gruden. He could change the dynamics in a big way, helping young running back Josh Jacobs emerge into a star.
- While Gruden continues to say the right things publicly as it relates to Carr, that seems to be more PR spin than anything else. What we’ve seen over the first two years of their marriage tells us an entirely different story.
- Due to the economic downturn that the pandemic has created, it’s being estimated that the 2021 NFL salary cap could drop by up to $25 million per team.
- This can’t be lost in the shuffle. Signed to a five-year, $125 million extension back in 2017, Carr is set to count $22.13 million against the cap next season. Las Vegas can save nearly $20 million by releasing the quarterback.
- As for Mariota, he inked a mere two-year, $17.6 million deal back in March. The former college standout will count only $10.1 million against the cap in 2021.
Comparing Derek Carr to Marcus Mariota
- Statistically, Carr has been the far superior quarterback. Since Mariota’s rookie campaign back in 2015, Carr is averaging north of 3,900 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s also earned three Pro Bowl appearances during that span.
- As for Mariota, the former Heisman winner has struggled with both consistency and injuries. He’s averaging just 2,641 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions during that span.
- Back to the dual-threat narrative mentioned above. Mariota has put up 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground throughout his career. Carr? He’s gained less than 500 yards while playing 31 more career games.
There’s a lot more to look at here outside of basic stats and Carr’s experience in the Raiders’ offense. The economics certainly play a role. That is not lost on Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock.
While Carr will more than likely be the Week 1 starter against the Carolina Panthers, there’s a darn good chance Mariota will take over for him at some point.
Let’s say Las Vegas finds itself out of playoff contention or struggling on offense after the first half of the season. It would only make sense for the Raiders to see what they have in Mariota. At that point, Carr would be a lost cause based on the ample opportunities he’s been given and his 2021 cap hit compared to Mariota.
At the very least, Gruden’s praise of Mariota on Friday lends credence to the idea that Carr is not the clear-cut starter in Vegas.