Not that it will stop the flood of specuation regarding the Raiders and their commitment to Derek Carr, but here’s what coach Jon Gruden had to say Wednesday when talking to beat reporters about the status of his quarterback for the past two seasons:
“Well, I can’t be more consistent on what I have said. I really think Derek is a heck of a player and I got a lot of respect for what he has done with some tough circumstances. So, I’m not going to answer every media rumor out there. I just can’t do it. I’m just going to listen to my Sirius Rock n’ Roll classic vinyl and keep working. But I love what Derek Carr brings to our team and anxious to continue to build around him.”
Later, there was this:
“I think you never stay the same, you either get better or worse, and at quarterback sometimes you get better because of your experience in the system. Sometimes you get better because of your supporting cast and sometimes you get better because the play calling is better. So, we’ve got to continue to improve at that position and we’re set out to do that no matter how we do it.”
Those quotes will be interpreted in different ways as free agency approaches and Tom Brady decides whether to join a new team or stay with the New England Patriots and the Raiders ponder their options.
My stance hasn’t changed. When the smoke clears, expect Carr to be the quarterback Week 1. They’ll look hard at the position, maybe bring in a younger player to immerse in the system, and end up with Carr as the starter.
Carr is under contract but the Raiders can get out of it with $5 million in dead money and have ample room under the salary cap to do just about whatever they want.
Asked about bringing in a younger quarterback, Gruden had this to say:
“Mike Glennon is a free agent. (Nathan) Peterman was hurt and unavailable last season, so we’re evaluating all the quarterbacks, free agents certainly and the kids in the draft. We met with five or six of those yesterday as well.”
Aside from quarterback, nine other things we learned from Gruden:
The crop of wide recievers and the Raiders’ foot problems
“We felt we added one of the best receivers in the league a year ago and he had frozen feet (Antonio Brown), and then we thought we had the best free agent receiver and he had fried feet from plantar fasciitis (Tyrell Williams) . . if you’re into statistics and analytics we threw the ball well. We got a great tight end, we think we got an outstanding young slot receiver. We’ve got some running backs that can really catch it. There’s a lot of ways to throw it these days, but we got to improve our defense. We’ve got to improve some other areas as well.”
Gruden said Williams is nearing 100 percent in terms of health.
Talent at wide receiver at the combine
“It’s very impressive. We brought several in back-to-back-to-back the other day just to compare them. They’re some real playmakers, big guys, quick, thick, fast-twitch guys. There is a variety of receivers and there are some guys that can return the football as well. So, yes, it’s a strong part of this draft. I think it’s as strong a wide receiver class as there’s been in a while.”
Linebackers Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma) and Patrick Queen (LSU)
“Queen is interesting. Early in the season, he wasn’t starting and then when you watch the championship run that they were on he was a big part of that. Very fast-twitch, athletic linebacker. Impact playmaker Murray is a type-A alpha. He’s a fun guy to talk football with. Two really good young linebackers. We’ve met with a couple others.”
Hiring Rod Marinelli as D-line coach at the expense of Brentson Buckner
“That was a tough one because I think Buckner is a good coach, really good coach, but I just happen to think Marinelli is the best in the world at what he does and having worked with him and seeing him with players . . . He’s a Hall of Fame coach if you ask me.”
Status of safety Karl Joseph, scheduled for unrestricted free agency
“You’ve got to obviously see where the market is, weigh all the options. He’s weighing them, we’re weighing them. It’s a tough part about this business no doubt. But good young player, he’s a hitter. Made an impact for us this year. Really improved in year two of our system.”
Getting safety Johnathan Abram back after missing almost all of his rookie year
“I think he leads the league in interviews right now. I don’t like Abram, I love Abram. I think Raiders fans are going to love him, but he’s got to be on the grass. The most important ability is availability. I know its cliché and corny, but we got to have him out there, so he’s got to learn to do that and he’s a complete deal. I think he has a playing style that is perfect for the Las Vegas Raiders and I’m confident he’ll prove it.”
Both Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock made note of Abram’s off-season in terms of making the most of national media opportunities.
Strategy in free agency
“First thing we did was we wanted to take (Darren) Waller off the board, and we wanted to take (Jalen) Richard off the board. Don’t let them get to free agency so we locked them up. Guys that we think have a huge upside. We do want to use free agency as a vehicle to continue to get better. We did last year with Trent Brown and Lamarcus Joyner. We found Richie Incognito, Tyrell Williams. So, we want to try to find some young guys certainly in free agency, but we also want to find and address some needs.”
Assessing passion for football in short combine interviews
“It’s hard to fake that, at least with me and Mayock. We’re pretty good at drawing that out of a player. Are you willing to run through the line or not? And a lot of it’s evident in their style of play. You might have a few clips that you put on and you ask them specifically, ‘Why did you do this?’ But we learn a little bit about them as people and we also learn a little bit about where they are in terms of football, so it’s a process, but it’s only a 15-minute interview and the horn blows every three minutes. So, it’s a little bit different but we’ve got some things done.”
The team headquarters and training facility in Henderson, Nevada
“Unbelievable. It’s state-of-the-art practice facility, the training room, the film rooms, the indoor practice site. It’s spectacular and you have to see it to believe it. Our players that have seen it are really excited. I saw Maxx Crosby, Johnathan Abram last week and Nevin Lawson. Some of the guys just can’t believe it, so it will be a real positive asset no doubt.”