The Oakland Raiders are 1-5 and, in the last two months, they’ve traded the only two Pro Bowlers they’ve drafted in the first round since 2004.
With three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft and two in 2020, it’s clear Jon Gruden is playing the long game for the Raiders with a relocation to Las Vegas on the horizon. But that doesn’t give players on the roster much reasons for optimism.
There are few members of the roster who can even feel confident they’ll be on the team in 2019, let alone be a part the team’s long-term future. It’s clear Oakland isn’t going to contend this season. What the hell is there to feel good about?
So with every piece of evidence pointing toward Gruden being the one in danger of losing the Raiders’ locker room, for some reason Derek Carr’s tears are in the spotlight.
A report alleges Carr’s crying has lost his teammates
In an article for The Athletic, writer Marcus Thompson alleges the locker room is fractured in Oakland. He lists many reasons, beginning with the trade of Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, but also a moment in the Raiders’ Week 6 loss to the Seahawks.
After getting hit in the fourth quarter and injuring his left arm, Carr appeared to cry. Thompson says that moment means it’ll be difficult for Carr to ever lead the Raiders again:
Raiders headquarters is not the best space for Carr. The belief in him has deteriorated, perhaps to irreparable levels. Team sources describe a fractured relationship between Carr and his teammates, mostly because confidence in him has waned. It certainly didn’t help when film showed what looked like him crying after being sacked and injuring his arm. They saw his face. They heard his whimper. They witnessed him explain on the sidelines. They assuredly watched it again in film session. It’s hard to see how Carr can lead this team again.
There are already rumblings about Carr being a sitting duck. If the whispers are accurate, the Raiders have already concluded that Carr is not the quarterback of the future and the question is how do they go about moving on. His game is marked by a mental fragility that doesn’t inspire confidence.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said his conversations with those around the Raiders hasn’t led him to believe that the alleged crying mattered to teammates:
Raiders tight end Lee Smith vehemently denied that Carr had lost the locker room in a strong defense of his quarterback:
Here it is: All 652 words of Raiders TE Lee Smith's impassioned speech, made in defense of QB Derek Carr to reporters minutes ago. "I hope that everyone hears me loud and clear of what a joke it is." pic.twitter.com/9p5bFjHUde— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 24, 2018
If Carr really is losing the locker room, it probably has more to do with his seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Case Keenum, Jameis Winston, and Josh Rosen are the only other current starters with more interceptions than touchdowns. Not exactly great company.
If Carr — ya know — actually played well this year, it’d probably inspire some confidence.
But Carr says he never cried, “not one time”
When Carr’s brother came to his defense about toughness, the Raider called the report wrong and said there was “not one tear” shed against the Seahawks.
Don’t even waste your time with this big bro. On the ground I yelled get me up get me. Then I got to the sideline and yelled again. Not one tear. Not one time. There is the Truth. People will click on it because it sounds crazy. But stop playing with me.— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) October 23, 2018
The next day, he told reporters the same thing, via Silver and Black Pride:
“I’ve broke my back, I’ve broke my ankle, I didn’t cry then, so I guess the shoulder was really tough for me,” Carr said. “It’s funny, man, my trainer actually sent me some pictures of me working out making the same face. So, I guess I cry when I train too.”
Aside from the fact that it’s silly and exhausting that it’s even a big deal whether or not he cried while in pain, it’s also not really believable. Anyone who’s seen the video isn’t buying it. Here, judge for yourself:
That ... looks a lot like crying.
But so what if it is? Carr was sacked six times behind an offensive line that has three interior starters who are among the highest paid at their positions and a left tackle who was drafted in the first round. Everything about the collapse of the Raiders offense should be frustrating and then he got an injury on top of it to boot.
Carr has played through a broken finger and even a broken back in his career. He’s in his fifth season and he’s missed just two games. The injury he suffered in Week 6 isn’t expected to cost him any time either.
He hasn’t really given reason to question his toughness. He’s given plenty of reason to question whether he can be a good quarterback.
This is the dumbest thing for the Raiders to be worrying about
The only thing — seriously the ONLY thing — that’s good about the Raiders right now is that they have five first-round picks in the next two drafts. They cannot score, they cannot stop other teams from scoring, they’re set for another nine years of Gruden saying ridiculous things, and the highest paid player on the team is regressing badly.
Gruden has traded away two of the team’s best players and it looks like no one is safe from getting moved. Who’s going to be next when the “grim reaper” shows up at practice?
One Raiders player called it a “grim reaper” moment in practice. Amari Cooper was laughing with WR Brandon LaFell: “I was joking, and they came and pulled him.” https://t.co/DYWVMdqn6o— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 23, 2018
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says Carr isn’t a player the Raiders are interested in trading, but general manager Reggie McKenzie wouldn’t even rule that possibility out:
McKenzie asked if anyone on roster is untouchable. “I’m untouchable.” Laughed. But yeah, he wouldn’t say Carr— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) October 22, 2018
Even Reggie McKenzie’s job with the Raiders — which is apparently to execute whatever plan Gruden comes up with — is depressing:
Crazy, but I believe this is true. Jon Gruden appears happy with the arrangement where he makes the decisions and Reggie McKenzie executes. The question is, is McKenzie happy with it? https://t.co/UIsSewiTC6— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2018
The Raiders aren’t going to be good any time soon and if they decide to part ways with Carr, they can save $15 million in cap space for 2019 by releasing him in the upcoming offseason.
Through all this misery, the story now is whether or not Carr cried and how his teammates feel about it. Why? It’s not exactly surprising for a league where players get criticized for not peeing their pants like a true leader, but goodness — what are we doing here?