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The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: Terrence Quaites- Franchise Sports Media

 

FSM Presents: The Raiders Realist – A Defense For Derek Carr (Something He Has Never Had)

Franchise Sports Media

 

“You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way”–Marlo Stanfield, The Wire

 

So I did this once before. It was during Derek Carr’s rookie season when the Raiders were 0-9 and it seemed like a semi-decent bet that they might go winless that year. Turns out, that did not happen. And things got better, even managed to win three games as Carr was saddled with a team on pace to having the worst rushing offense in modern NFL history.

 

Raiders vs Jets
Photo Credit: Gang Green Nation

Flash forward 6 1/4 years and we are in this weird place where the arguments around Derek Carr still center around his ability (or in some eyes, inability) to win, often skipping over the biggest impediment to winning since, well before, Carr arrived: Defense. Or notably, lack thereof.

One year of bad defense is one thing. Like allowing 29.9 ppg (478 points total). Winning eight games in that circumstance is literally unprecedented (EDIT: The 2013 Chicago Bears also allowed 478 points and won eight games. So almost unprecedented). In the history of pro football in America, look at the list of those teams. I saved you the trouble and added up the records of the teams that also allowed 29.9 or more points per game: 53-234-3 overall. If you add the two teams that joined the Raiders in allowing that number this year (Jacksonville and Detroit), it drops to 59-257-3. That’s a win percentage of .1897. Rounded up, that means, teams that allow that many points have historically won 19 percent of their games.

 

So that’s bad. Historically bad. Yet Carr managed to drag his team to 50 percent despite having the 21st worst defense in the history of the NFL. All 100 years of the NFL. Well, surely Carr’s had better defenses here over the course of seven years.

 

Raiders vs Buccaneers
Photo Credit: En24News

Yeah, SLIGHTLY. Over the seven years Carr has been a Raider, the defense has allowed 26.5 points per game. To quote LeBron James: Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six. But seven. I figured, there have been other teams saddled with poor defense, so let’s look at the QB’s everyone else considers elite and that Carr can’t play like and clearly they’re able to overcome awful defense.

I started with Drew Brees because he’s someone that DID HAVE BAD DEFENSES. Over the course of six years, from 2012-2017, the Saints allowed 25.3 ppg. That’s pretty bad. Not as bad as the Raiders, but bad. But they had DREW BREES! First ballot Hall of Famer. Top 5-9 all-time QB depending on what you value. Do you know what their record was with the legendary Drew Brees and their high powered offense fighting against a defense that was STILL 4.5 percent better than the Raiders? 50-46. Drew Brees was a slightly above .500 quarterback with a bad defense.

Admittedly, Derek Carr is not prime Drew Brees. The problem is, there is no other QB that is considered elite that has had a defense allow anywhere near 26.5 ppg over seven years. So since so many of these QB’s have not had defenses as consistently bad as Carr’s with the Raiders, I figured I’d combine some of the worst defenses they had and see what a record over seven years would look like, and what the overall defense was and if it was as bad as the one the Raiders have had. So, the seven best QB’s that have played simultaneously with Carr at some point are as follows:

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan. Yes, Matt Ryan. Apologies to Russell Wilson and Phillip Rivers, I said what I said. Now let’s see if combined, their defenses were anywhere near as bad as the 26.5 points per game Carr has allowed.

  • Brady…worst defense, 2002 with 346 points allowed, 9-7 record.
  • Manning…worst defense, 2001. 486 (!!!) points allowed, 6-10 record. No wonder Jim Mora wasn’t trying to hear it.
  • Rodgers…worst defense, TECHNICALLY it is 2013. That team allowed 428 points. The problem is, Rodgers only played nine games. So I’m defaulting to his second-worst defense in 2008 that had 380 points allowed, 6-10 record.
  • Brees…worst defense, 2015 with 476 points allowed, 7-9 record.
  • Mahomes…worst defense, 2018 with 421 points allowed, 12-4 record. Insane.
  • Roethlisberger…worst defense, 2013 with 370 points allowed. 8-8 record.
  • Ryan…worst defense, 2013 with 443 points allowed. 4-12 record.

First off, a couple of observations. The WORST full season defenses Brady and Roethlisberger have ever had in 37 combined NFL seasons as starting QB’s were STILL BETTER than Derek Carr’s best in 2017. Rodgers’ worst was just a single touchdown worse and that was his rookie year. Peyton Manning had a defense that allowed just eight points more than Carr did in 2020, but lost two more games. What a bum. Whatever…let’s tally those numbers up, carry the four, and we have a total of 2922 points. Over seven years, that’s an average of 417.4 points, or 26 points per game even. Which is STILL better than the 26.5 points per game Derek Carr’s defense has allowed his first seven years.

 

So you take those seven great QB’s, and with a defense just 1/2 point better than Carr’s, they have a combined record of 52-60. Not very far at all from Carr’s supposedly terrible 47-63 record as a starter (he’s missed two games due to injury). And that’s with a semi-fluky season of Mahomes scoring 565 points while his team allowed 26.3 ppg and winning 12 games. Kind of like Carr’s 2016 season where he was able to offset a poor defense for a single year to win 12 games in his own right.

 

Raiders vs Patriots
Photo Credit: KTNV

If all that was not enough, here is one last historical tidbit that puts the icing on this insanity cake. Since the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule in 1978, 116 teams have averaged at least 27.1 points per game (434 points in a 16 game season). Of those teams, 102 have made the playoffs. That is an 88 percent success rate. This is even more interesting considering 10 of those teams scored that amount in 2020, and nine of them made the playoffs, with the Raiders being the only team that did not. 90 percent this year, 88 percent in history. It is an absolute historical pattern.

So that means there are 14 teams in the last 43 years of NFL history that scored this amount of points and did not make the playoffs. In chronological order:

  • 1980 Patriots-allowed 325 points
  • 1985 Chargers-allowed 435 points
  • 1985 Bengals-allowed 437 points
  • 2002 Chiefs-allowed 399 points
  • 2004 Chiefs-allowed 435 points
  • 2008 Saints-allowed 393 points
  • 2010 Chargers-allowed 322 points
  • 2012 Saints-allowed 454 points
  • 2013 Cowboys-allowed 432 points
  • 2014 Eagles-allowed 400 points
  • 2016 Saints-allowed 454 points
  • 2019 Buccaneers-allowed 449 points
  • 2019 Cowboys-allowed 321 points
  • 2020 Raiders-allowed 478 points

What is the common denominator? Bad defense. Take away the Raiders and the other 13 teams allowed an averaged of 25.2 points per game. A lot of scoring, no playoffs. Derek Carr has had three defenses in seven years that allowed even less than 25.2 points per game. They all came in Jack Del Rio‘s tenure from 2015-2017. Carr’s record those three years? 25-21. The defense was not great under Del Rio, it was barely average depending on your definition.

They finished 22nd, 20th, and 20th in scoring those three years. Yet Carr had a winning record over a three year period with just mediocrity on defense. In the other four years with his record at 22-42, the Raiders allowed 452 points (32nd out of 32 teams), 467 points (32nd out of 32 teams), 419 points (24th out of 32 teams), and 478 points (30th out of 32 teams). That’s an average of 454 points a year, or 28.4 points per game. Find me the QB that is winning a bunch of games with a defense that allows 28.4 points per game.

 

I decided, since many Raiders fans assume Carr should have scored many more points this year, that we should flip this around as well. Meaning, how many teams did have defenses that allowed 25.2 points per game on average those other 13 teams did and still managed to make the playoffs. The answer? Five. In history.

 

  • 2000 Rams-allowed 29.4 points per game (10-6)
  • 2016 Falcons-allowed 25.4 points per game (12-4)
  • 2018 Chiefs-allowed 26.3 points per game (12-4)
  • 2020 Browns-allowed 26.2 points per game (11-5)
  • 2020 Titans-allowed 27.4 points per game (11-5)

 

Raiders vs Chargers
Photo Credit: Indianapolis Star

So if your formula for the Raiders to win is “Derek Carr needs to just score more points”, and a serious improvement on the defense does not happen, well Raider Nation, you can look forward to the playoffs maybe once every two decades.

What does all this prove? Well, for some of you nothing. No amount of facts or data or analysis or research will change your minds about Carr. But for others, I hope this illuminates with mega wattage the reality that even some of the all-time best quarterbacks to ever do it could only do so much with really bad defenses. That no matter how much you score, if your defense gives it back just as often, you do not win. As I and others have tried to say over and over and over again, yes Carr has flaws in his game. He is by no means a perfect QB. He may not even be a great QB. That’s fair.

But what’s not fair is this expectation that he’s somehow supposed to win in the face of a consistently terrible defense. You give me any great QB in history, MontanaMarinoElwayFoutsJim Kelly, etc., and saddle them with a bad for their era defense and you are not winning football games consistently. You do it for seven years, and it is almost an impossibility. No long term QB has ever gone this long without at least one league-average defense. Not Matthew Stafford, not Archie Manning, not Sonny Jurgensen with the old Philadelphia and Washington teams of the 1960s. No QB in the history of the NFL has had the handicap of having to score 27 points per game over a seven-year period to win football games. Until Derek Carr.

 

So can we cut the guy some slack? Look at the difference with Brady and Roethlisberger. That is INSANE. All those years and they have never had to play with a single defense as bad as Derek Carr has. And when they did, both of them were on mediocre teams. But some of you will say he should be winning and with a straight face. It is like blaming an airplane crash on the passengers not wearing seat belts. Okay. You all want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.

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CJ Baldwin

I am The Raiders Realist. Fan for 35 years. At times, against my better judgment. I tell the truth because I am not afraid of the consequences. That applies to the Oakland/LA/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders as well. Let logic rule.

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