ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Maybe we should have seen this coming, the regression of Derek Carr.
Indeed, history all but dictates it.
As pointed out by the Associated Press, Carr became the (unlucky?) 13th quarterback in the past 30 years to start at least 10 games as a rookie and see his passer rating improve in each of the next two seasons. But of those QBs, only Troy Aikman continued that ascent with further improvement in Year 4. The other 11 saw their respective passer ratings drop by an average of almost 10 points in that fourth season. And that group includes former MVPs Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.
Carr? His passer rating of 88.4 this season is 8.3 points under his 2016 mark.
The Oakland Raiders quarterback is also on pace for 23 touchdown passes and 3,558 passing yards, which both would be his fewest since his rookie season. And his 10 interceptions and 17 sacks are both more than last season, when he had six and 16, respectively.
Carr is also coming back from a broken passing pinkie finger and fractured right fibula in late 2016, and suffering broken bones in his back in Week 4 at Denver cost him one game this season. Many observers also wonder if Carr is a bit shell-shocked.
This all comes with the Raiders sitting at 6-8, all but eliminated from the playoff race and set to visit the Philadelphia Eagles (12-2) for Monday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).
“My rookie year, we were sitting there in Seattle and I think we were 0-9 or 0-10 at that point [they were 0-8 en route to an 0-10 start] and somebody asked me -- think they were from Seattle -- ‘Is this season ruining you?’” Carr recalled. “I said, ‘Not if I know who I am.’
“It’s one of those things that I use everything that I go through ... to be better. I use it all to just fuel the fire, to grow and learn from. There’s been things that I’ve gone through this year that I’ve never been through and I’m learning how to deal with those things, and not just deal with them, but execute them at a high level.”
Carr said the experience should only help him going forward.
“This time next year, we’re standing here, I’ll feel like, man, because I trust my work ethic, that I’m a better player this year because of what I went through,” the 26-year-old said. “Not only on the field, but off the field as well, what I’ve dealt with. I think that going forward I’ll definitely be a better player.”
After last season’s breakthrough -- Carr finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting after passing for 3,937 yards with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions despite missing the season finale with the broken leg -- the Raiders rewarded Carr with a five-year, $125 million contract extension that made him, at the time, the highest-paid player in the history of the game.
But a 2-0 start gave way to a four-game losing streak that left Oakland with an uphill battle.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Carr will only grow from the experience.
“Even the very best, even the very elite quarterbacks of all time weren’t perfect every year,” Del Rio said. “Derek is good football player. We’re going to win a lot of games together here.”
Last season, Carr authored seven comeback victories in the fourth quarter or overtime. This season, he has one, but could and/or should have two more: at home against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6, when a missed fourth-quarter PAT cost Oakland in a 17-16 loss, and against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, when he fumbled through the end zone for a game-sealing touchback with 31 seconds to play in the 20-17 defeat.
“I definitely have worked, if anything, harder this year, because I learned so much from last year,” Carr said. “Every year, I find things where I can go harder into and things like that. We just haven’t executed at a high level as a team, to be honest.
“So do I feel like I’m a better player today than I was a year ago, last year? Absolutely. I definitely do. But, there’s definitely decisions and things that can be made that would be better for our team.”