They all but said it during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, without actually coming out and saying it.
No reason for them to say it as fact, because if some team determines Carr is worth a first-round draft pick or a first and more, they have given themselves some wiggle room.
Let’s pause for a moment to allow Carr’s detractors to clear their throats after gagging on the concept than anyone else would want Carr. They have a hard time believing anyone would be interested, despite a lot of qualities that Gruden and Mayock have espoused in Indianapolis.
Gruden isn’t interested in starting a rookie quarterback. Never has been. But he did concede Thursday they need some young blood in the quarterback room, and the smart move has always been to keep Carr for at least another year and groom his successor.
If Tom Brady were to descend from the heavens at age 42, bringing in a quarterback of the future becomes even more of a priority.
With an eye toward the Kansas City Chiefs at the top of the division, the ideal move would be to bring in Jordan Love of Utah State — a package of skills which most personnel people think is the closest thing to Patrick Mahomes in the NFL draft.
Asked by reporters at the combine who he’d compare himself to, Love played the Mahomes card.
“I get asked that a lot,” Love said. “I’d say Patrick Mahomes, based on arm talent and what he can do. I’m not saying I’m Patrick Mahomes — calm down — but Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, guys who can make plays.”
Love (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) would probably mean using the 12th or 19th pick, which the Raiders currently own in the first round. Maybe even moving up, if NFL Network and ESPN panels at the combine are to be believed.
A more realistic option would be Jalen Hurts, from Oklahoma by way of Alabama, with one of three third-round picks.
In both cases, the quarterbacks would be better served by sitting for at least a year other than specialty packages with Carr running the show in the third year of a five-year contract. Neither Love nor Hurts has done much work under center, a staple of the offense Gruden still considers sacrosanct, or run a team out of a huddle.
Nor have they waded through the verbiage Mayock called “mind-boggling” in terms of Gruden’s offensive system.
— NFL (@NFL) February 28, 2020
Having either player aboard, or any other quarterback with designs on being a starter sooner rather than later, would serve as a study in character for Carr, who has never been anything but the main guy since arriving as a rookie. If he’s the team guy he says he is, Carr would do what Matt Schaub did in 2014 — everything in his power to bring the young buck up to speed.
In any regard, keeping Carr aboard while looking for his eventual replacement is the smart move for a team trying to build for the future.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid provided the perfect illustration when he traded up to get Mahomes out of Texas Tech in 2018 with Alex Smith as the starter. Smith played for a year, and as he admirably did when pushed aside for Colin Kaepernick, did everything he could to help the guy who took his job.
There is no way to look at Love and not think of Mahomes, not in a copycat league, although the Raiders may not be able to afford the luxury of a first-round pick who doesn’t play immediately as the Chiefs were.
Mayock loved Love’s skill, but noted his propensity for interceptions (20 touchdowns, 17 picks) and concededed he has a long way to go.
Unlike the Chiefs, who had an established roster and could afford to burn a first-round pick on a quarterback of the future even if he wasn’t going to play immediately, the Raiders are coming off 7-9 and likely need an impact player right away. That pretty much rules out Love.
Hurts, who clocked in at 4.59 seconds Thursday in the 40-yard dash and has the kind of running-passing skills popular in the modern NFL, could be attainable. He rushed for 1,298 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Sooners and passed for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns with eight interceptions, so the run-pass skills are evident.
Hurts (6-2, 218) also did something Gruden has long admired in Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson played at North Carolina State until he was a through his junior year, and then seamlessly transitioned in a single year at Wisconsin as a senior.
It happened in a similar way for Hurts going from Alabama to Oklahoma. And while Oklahoma’s system wouldn’t seem to be an instant step into the NFL with no huddles or snaps under center, that hasn’t stopped Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray from being instant starters after being the No. 1 overall pick.
That wouldn’t be the case for Hurts if he joined the Raiders with Carr (or Brady) aboard, but that wouldn’t prevent getting him involved with some trick formations until he was ready to take over.
“I don’t think there’s a ceiling on my game,” Hurts said at the combine. “I think there isn’t any limit. I would say the sky’s the limit, but I don’t think that’s even the limit. The dynamic ability I have, able to make every throw, get nasty and bend my legs if needed, but it should be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”