ALAMEDA (AP) — Derek Carr has almost completed the climb out of the hole created by the 0-10 start to his career.
Heading into his 50th career start on Sunday night in Washington, Carr has a chance to even his career winning percentage to .500 as part of a rapid rise from a rough beginning to his tenure with the Oakland Raiders.
“Whenever you start 0-10, it usually doesn’t end well, but I’m glad that we’re trending in the right direction,” Carr said Wednesday. “That first year, as we all know, was rough for everybody. To be able to win some more games since that day, it’s a good thing.”
After those 10 straight losses as a rookie, Carr won three of his final six starts in 2014 and then went 7-9 the following year in the first season with Jack Del Rio as coach.
Things really started to progress last year when the team went 12-4 — with one loss coming when Carr was sidelined by a broken leg — and the quality of play has only increased this season.
Oakland has won its first two games for the first time since the AFC championship season in 2002 and is the first team since Denver in 2010 to score at least 70 points and commit no turnovers the first two weeks of the season.
Carr is a major reason for that success. He is completing 75 percent of his passes through two games, has increased his yards per attempt from 7.0 last year to 8.2 so far this year and has five TD passes, no interceptions and a 126.5 passer rating.
“He’s awesome,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said on a conference call. “He’s a great player. He has great command of the offense. He really has a great knack for giving receivers catchable balls. It looks like they’re covered and he can drop the ball in buckets that not many people would throw, let alone complete. His receivers do a great of tracking it for him. I’ve just been impressed with his poise in the pocket, his command of the game, and obviously the results that he’s had.”
For his career, Carr has thrown for 11,686 yards and 86 TDs with a passer rating of 89.2. He needs 310 yards this week to move into the top 10 for most by a quarterback in his first 50 games and with three TDs he can tie Andrew Luck for the fifth-most TD passes.
Carr never doubted this success would come, even as the losses piled up his rookie season and he watched his first coach, Dennis Allen, get fired four games into the campaign.
“I just knew at some point it has to change, because when you do things the right way, it’s got to change eventually,” he said. “So, every single game, I went out there, all 10 of those games, and thought, ‘Yeah, this is the one. We’re going to win.’ And it just didn’t work out that way. I knew that we were building something special. I knew that the culture us players had taken on and wanted to put into this building was special.”
Carr has gotten plenty of help in the turnaround, especially on offense. The Raiders have one of the top offensive lines in the league with three returning Pro Bowlers in center Rodney Hudson, left guard Kelechi Osemele and left tackle Donald Penn, an emerging young star at right guard in Gabe Jackson and newcomer Marshall Newhouse, who has upgraded the right tackle spot.
Marshawn Lynch has come out of retirement to give Oakland a power running game to complement speedsters Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington and receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree form one of the most productive duos in the league. With tight end Jared Cook adding another threat in the passing game and Cordarrelle Patterson providing another threat with his speed as a receiver or out of the backfield, the Raiders have one of the league’s most complete offenses.
“I feel like we have a lot of talent,” Carr said. “I think that our front office and our coaches have done a great job of bringing that in, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we go out and do it on the field. That is the coolest part to me, is that our guys sat in there in meetings, attentive, ready to learn what’s next, what’s the game plan. When we hit this field, it’ll be full speed. It’ll be all out, everything they’ve got. I think it’s cool to have the weapons and all that, but the cool thing to me is what we do not even on Sundays, it’s what we do in between the days leading up.”