It seems the Oakland Raiders have a quarterback.
In a game where the Raiders flashed the gory and the glory — they committed an NFL-record 23 penalties for 200 yards — Derek Carr set a franchise record for passing yards, with 513. That included a game-winning 41-yard TD pass to Seth Roberts in overtime to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 30-24.
Oakland also missed several field-goal attempts that would have won the game much earlier. Despite the conflicting aesthetics, the Raiders are now 5-0 on the road for the first time since 1977, when John Madden was pacing and barking down the sidelines.
Most football fans sensed that a Carr would be a franchise QB, though perhaps the brother, David, who was the No.1 pick in the draft some years ago. But the fledgeling Texans had a leaky offensive line, which led to savage, weekly beatings for the elder Carr, who may have left Texas, if not the NFL, with PTSD.
The Raiders have likewise been forlorn for about 15 years, but with acute talent evaluation, they have built a wall around Derek Carr, who seems to be getting more mojo by the week. Yesterday he threw the football an obscene 59 times, completing 40, an aerial assault that would have made the Raiders patriarch, Al Davis, rather proud.
If he were a pitcher, Carr might be forced to skip a start. But he’s a football player, who seems to not only have the arm but also the swagger that was for so long a hallmark of Raiders football. Carr is also quietly dressing up a resume for MVP, which some folks have already bequeathed to Tom Brady, despite the fact that the Patriots QB missed the first four games of this season.
No sane person would doubt or dispute Brady’s eminence. But he is part of a football machine, which rolls across the league with military synergy, led by a Hall-of-Fame coach in Bill Belichick.
The Raiders are a bit more blue-collar, cut-and-paste with some key draft picks, and led by an old-school linebacker left for head-coaching carrion when he was fired by the Jaguars. Other than the beefy Madden, a man could not look more like a Raiders coach than Jack Del Rio.
And it’s hard to argue the numbers put up by the Raiders’ rising star. Carr has completed 66.3 percent of his passes, is fifth in the NFL in passing yards (2,321), with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
The Patriots went 3-1 sans Brady. Does anyone have the sense the Raiders would be close to 6-2 without Carr? Oakland’s offensive linemen must have an ever greater sense of Carr’s value, as he has only been sacked nine times, fewest of any starting NFL quarterback.
There’s no middle ground on the Oakland Raiders. Folks either love or loath the self-made pirates from California, spawned by a man from Brooklyn. A common mantra in sports is that the success of traditional teams is good for the sport. And while you have to be a certain age to recall when the Raiders were great, you can’t dispute that they were, or that they’re resurgence is good for NFL business.
It’s a shame the old man isn’t around to see what’s happening now. Not only are they just winning (baby), they have quite a gunslinger squatting under center, the likes of whom the Raiders haven’t seen since Ken Stabler.
Perhaps it’s premature to declare the Raiders back to their old-world form. But it’s the perfect time to assert that they have a franchise quarterback. And even if you hate the Oakland Raiders, you probably, secretly, like that they’re back.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.