The 2019 offseason has been a wild one for the Oakland Raiders, as they’ve been one of the most interesting topics in all of sports. Gruden alone brings some of that, but factor in trading for Antonio Brown, spending big money in free agency, and of course the never-ending rumors about using one of their three first-round picks on a quarterback (which didn’t happen, obviously).
Speaking of the quarterback position, the man who has been the one constant over the last five seasons for the Silver & Black, among waves of culture change, hirings and firings, and UFC fight challenges with outspoken ESPN personalities is Derek Carr.
When I think of what Carr brings to the table, I think of leadership, dedication, honesty, toughness, intelligence, arm strength, and (last, but definitely not least) an elite ability to come through in the clutch. I’m not sure if “clutchness” is a word, but I’ll ignore auto-correct and roll with it as I see fit.
There’s an intense emotion that comes with the waning moments of a close game. The cute first half wrinkles and trickery have faded, the players are tired and every snap comes with more pressure.
But that is where and when Carr thrives.
He sets the protective approach aside and lets his arm take over. Truthfully, I wish the team could play behind that mentality from the first whistle.
Here are a few eye-popping stats to get this clutch party started:
No QB in the history of the NFL has more fourth-quarter comebacks through their first five seasons than Derek Carr. And since entering the league in 2014, Carr is tied for first among all QBs in fourth-quarter comebacks and ranks third in game-winning drives during the same time span. In 2016, he notched seven game-winning drives, which was good for second-best in NFL history for a single season.
That’s all impressive, but I wanted to dig even deeper. What do the analytics say about the Raider gunslinger when the game is on the line?
For that answer, I reached out to my friend Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle), a Senior Content/Strategy Analyst over at Pro Football Focus.
Per Austin, among the 25 Quarterbacks with 100 or more dropbacks in the 4th Quarter/Overtime with the game within one possession (8 points) since 2014, Derek Carr ranks:
7th in PFF passing grade (82.8)
7th in adjusted completion percentage (77.8%)
15th in passer rating (94.6)
14th in big-time throw percentage (4.24%)
18th in turnover-worthy play percentage (2.83%)
I always feel like the analytics are against the grain when it comes to Carr, but those numbers are solid. He’s a top 7 QB in passing grade and adjusted completion percentage, while sitting middle of the pack in passer rating and big-time throw percentage.
The turnover-worthy play percentage is the only one where he’s in the bottom third of qualified QBs. For those that don’t know, a “turnover-worthy play” just means it was a poorly rated down, as a turnover either occurred or maybe should have occurred. At the end of the day, I’ll deal with the 2.83 times out of 100 ratio, and if he’s being aggressive in those situations, I can live with it.
Something else I noticed (I spent some serious time on Pro Football Reference’s website) is the fact that, among the 32 projected starting quarterbacks for the 2019 season that have appeared in at least 15 games, only Carr and Matthew Stafford have had 50% of their credited wins come by way of a game-winning drive. At first that stat was a little mind boggling, but then it started to make sense, as that’s the way you have to win when you’ve never had a defense ranked better than 20th in points allowed or 21st in yards given up.
Crazy, isn’t it?
(Everyone please raise your glasses to Paul Guenther, as we’re all hoping he can put an end to that defensive trend sooner rather than later)
At the very least, Carr has the experience and a more than respectable success rate when it comes to being at his best when it matters most. There are many ways you can look at quarterbacks and frame an argument about who is better than who, but I’ll take my chances with Carr’s “clutchness” on any given Sunday.
(Featured Photo: Jason Hanna/Getty Images)