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Derek Carr’s first offensive coordinator in the NFL is back with Oakland, and the pair gets a second chance to make it work.
The Raiders started 0-10 in Carr’s 2014 rookie season. Olson was fired later that year after two seasons as Oakland’s offensive coordinator. He’s since served as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator for almost one and a half seasons and the Rams’ quarterbacks coach for 2017.
Jon Gruden will call plays for the Raiders, so Olson may be more of a quarterbacks coach than anything. He said Wednesday the staff is still discussing whether to even hire a coach for the position given the involvement both Olson and Gruden will have with Carr.
This past season was Carr’s worst since that rookie year. Even so, the Raiders’ new offensive coordinator sees a thoroughly evolved No. 4 more than three years later.
"The previous season prior to this year, he had such a big year. He still looked extremely talented again this year,” Olson said. “You see the arm talent there. You see the talented player. Took a little, obviously, step backwards, but I just think there’s such a big jump from that Year 1 to Year 2 and he demonstrated that.
“He’s demonstrated growth throughout his career up until this past season. I just think you can see a more mature player. I think, obviously, his knowledge of the game, you can see that on the tape. His ability to get in and out of bad plays, get the ball out of his hand. Again, I think there’s been tremendous growth since I left him."
Carr cycled through three offensive coordinators – Olson, Bill Musgrave and Todd Downing – and three head coaches – Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio – in his first four seasons. He gets a familiar face at coordinator but yet another head coach, this time one notorious for squeezing each and every last drop out of his quarterbacks.
So what’s next for Carr? He can feasibly only go up from here after a season in which he threw for less than twice as many touchdowns (22) as interceptions (13). Carr’s 13 picks in 2017 more than doubled his six from the year before.
He looked hesitant to throw downfield at times, lacked mobility until late in the season and appeared nothing like the near-MVP quarterback of his third season.
“Probably more so than anything, this guy has to get some continuity. The fact that they signed Jon Gruden to a 10-year contract, that’s going to provide that stability that he needs and the continuity that he’s going to need,” Olson said. “He’s going to be in a system now. He’s going to be coached by a head coach that’s going to be the play caller. He’s completely hands on with the quarterback position, and that’s the first time Derek will have, first time he’s going to have an offensive head coach that has a quarterback background and will be hands on with him on a day-to-day basis.
“I just see that growth curb skyrocketing because of that. That, coupled with the fact that the guy just signed a 10-year contract, should ease a lot of concerns for Derek.”
Gruden was the first one to publicly concede that Carr’s three back fractures suffered in Week 4 would be a reasonable justification for this season’s struggles.
If they were indeed a restriction after only one week off, Carr has all offseason to get 100% healthy (even though he claimed to be so late in the year). Not only that, but he has an offensive coordinator who’s worked with him before, and one who aptly complements the new QB-obsessed head coach.
Now there’s no excuse for Carr to have a repeat of last season.
“I think that’s the challenge that (Gruden) is looking forward to, how do we get the best version of Derek Carr and how do we get the most out of Derek Carr,” Olson said. “Everything we do in this building is going to be about the development of Derek Carr.”