This is my Friday column on Derek Carr, Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie. WARNING: This is a Raiders column. 49ers fans — feel free to skip this.
The Raiders don’t have to do it.
The Raiders don’t have to start Derek Carr this Sunday against the Jets. Dennis Allen still has time to bench the Raiders’ future franchise quarterback before the Jets smash and steamroll him like a character in Looney Tunes.
Allen should not start Carr even though Carr earned the job – his passer rating in the preseason was 108 and Matt Schaub’s was 55.
But what did Carr really earn?
He earned the right to play behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. The left tackle, Donald Penn, played for the Buccaneers last season and gave up 12 sacks. The right tackle, Menelik Watson, just got benched.
Carr earned the right to repeat his older brother’s fate. David Carr was the first pick in 2002, and he started as a rookie for the Texans, an expansion team, and he got sacked 76 times. Carr The Elder got beaten down physically and mentally and never got a chance to build confidence. This could happen to Carr The Younger, too.
It’s not wise to make a rookie quarterback carry a bad team. Rookie quarterbacks typically don’t play well. Troy Aikman went 0-11 as a rookie. Peyton Manning went 3-13. In the rare instances when a rookie quarterback played well and won (Ben Roethlisberger went 13-0 in 2004 and Russell Wilson went 11-5 in 2012), they played for teams that already had established running games and established defenses. The Raiders have neither.
The Raiders are the only team starting a rookie quarterback Week 1. The Jaguars’ rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles, is better than Carr. But the Jaguars aren’t starting Bortles. The Jaguars are a prudent franchise.
What have we learned about the Raiders? Let’s start with the general manager, Reggie McKenzie.
We’ve learned he should not be allowed to sign or trade for a quarterback ever again. Revoke his privileges. He has acquired multimillion-dollar busts – Matt Flynn and Matt Schaub – two years in a row at a total of $14 million guaranteed. McKenzie is throwing away Mark Davis’ money.
What have we learned about Allen, the head coach?
We’ve learned he is risking a young man’s future and the franchise’s future for job security.
Starting Carr gives Allen an excuse if the Raiders stink. Say they finish 4-12 again. Allen can say 4-12 was a good record considering he started a rookie quarterback.
Starting Carr buys Allen one more year beyond this one. Firing Allen after this season and hiring a new coaching staff and making Carr learn and operate two different systems his first two seasons in the NFL would jeopardize his development. Young quarterbacks need continuity.
We’ve learned Allen is clever at protecting himself. Will he be as clever at protecting Carr? Allen better be, especially this week against the Jets and their head coach Rex Ryan.
Ryan will try to overwhelm Carr by showing him things he’s never seen before. That’s what Ryan does. His defense is unusual and complex. Even veterans have a tough time figuring it out.
Ryan is going to show Carr the 3-4 defense, the 4-3 defense, the 4-6 defense and the Nickel 4-6 defense. Ryan is going to show a blitz from the left, and then bring the blitz from the right and vice versa. Ryan is going to blitz up the middle, use every blitz package imaginable to test the rookie quarterback.
Can Carr hold up to the pressure? How many checks can he make at the line of scrimmage? Can he adjust the protections? Can he do the little things NFL quarterbacks take years to master? If not, unblocked rushers will crush him.
Allen has Carr’s career in his hands. Allen has to protect Carr, give him a chance to stay on his feet.
Allen must make sure the game plan includes a running game, play-action passes, pocket movement, screens, shallow crosses, three-step drops, five-step drops, easy passes. Get the ball out of the kid’s hands.
That’s what Bill Walsh would have done.
Actually, no. What am I thinking? Walsh wouldn’t have started Carr in the first place. He was too wise for that.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.