Link to my Monday Raiders column. Full text below:


Link to my Monday Raiders column. Full text below:


Sunday, Dec. 13 Oakland Raiders (5-7) at Denver Broncos (10-2)

Time: 1:05 p.m. TV: CBS Radio: 95.7 FM

“Screw you.” The Chiefs coaches were screaming.
Except they didn’t use the word “screw.”
It was right after Chiefs linebacker Josh Mauga intercepted Derek Carr early in the fourth quarter and rumbled 66 yards down the field like a runaway beer truck and got knocked down at the Raiders’ 2-yard line. “Screw you,” the Kansas City coaches screamed at the Raiders players from the small coaches’ room adjoining the press box.

“Screw you” they shouted and they started banging on the window separating them from the media in the press box. The window started rattling and you expected a big beefy football coach to slam his fist through the glass and to come tumbling into the press box with a red, happy face like a New Year’s Eve reveler who just downed a six-pack of Bud Light. The Chiefs tied the game 20-20 and the KC coaches whooped it up a long time.

Call that play and the succeeding celebration a real Window Banger. Call it Window Banger No. 1. It wouldn’t be the last. More picks to come — Carr initiated picks — that led to the Raiders’ 34-20 loss, that almost certainly ran them right of the playoffs.

Derek Carr lost this crucial late-season game for the Raiders. He has to own it. And he lost the game after the Chiefs gifted the Raiders a touchdown. The Raiders needed a gift to beat Kansas City and the gift came late in the second quarter when Charles Woodson stripped Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce of the ball and grabbed the ball and ran back 38 yards. That led to a Raiders TD, the Raiders up 14-7, in control because of a break. And Carr gifted the Chiefs back that break and then he did it again and again.

On the Raiders’ next series of the fourth quarter — right after the first pick — Carr threw another pick, this time to Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. Receiver Michael Crabtree fell down, and that may qualify as a partial excuse. The KC coaches didn’t care. The joint was jumping in that room. The Chiefs scored a TD, took the lead. Window Banger No. 2.

On the Raiders’ next series, Carr didn’t throw a pick. But Sebastian Janikowski missed a field goal and that window did some serious rattling. Window Banger No. 3.

On the Raiders’ next series, Carr threw his third pick of the fourth quarter, this one to Tyvon Branch off the hands of Amari Cooper. Pick six. Take it to the house. Chiefs take insurmountable lead. Bang that window, boys. Just go nuts. Window Banger No. 4.
Not a good quarter for Carr. He had explanations, even excuses for every one of those interceptions, but this you must know. An elite quarterback, a winning quarterback, a playoff-ready quarterback does not make those unforgivable mistakes. He finds a way to win — or at least not to lose.

Carr is the Raiders. He is the Raiders in every sense, both good and bad. He has unlimited ability but he is green like the team and he does well and he does badly.

Here’s an example of good. As time in the first half waned, he threw a bullet to Michael Crabtree at the goal line, Crabtree guarded by two men. Carr aimed the ball perfectly. Touchdown. And it’s clear he has everything a quarterback needs — or he will have.
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The three picks — the game-killing, season-killing picks — were the bad. Right now, Carr is a good-bad quarterback. And the Raiders are a good-bad team. And they will grow out of that.
Carr is quarterback as risk taker. That is exactly what any NFL team needs. It’s good to be a risk taker. But the best quarterbacks temper risk-taking with wisdom. You would rather have Carr, someone who eventually will carry a team, than Alex Smith, the winning quarterback, who cannot carry a team. Smith is a tidy, mostly mistake-free quarterback who is too conservative for the big things required by football. Eventually, Carr will be better than Smith ever was. Not now.

After the game, coach Jack Del Rio came to the interview room. Del Rio is a non-discusser. He uttered some words about Carr, how he had a “rough” day. No kidding. And how Carr might have tried to do too much. Meaning, I guess, he threw the ball where he had no business throwing it.

I asked, “Based on what we saw today with Derek Carr, does he still have some growing and maturing to do as a quarterback?”

Del Rio shot me a look. A real answer was required. Whatever would he do? He would give a real answer.

“There’s no question,” he said. “Regardless of how today went that would be the case. He’s one of several good young players that will continue to grow from experiences both good and bad. There were some good experiences early in that ballgame, but certainly at the end there were opportunities where it has to be different for him to be the player he wants to be and for us to be the team we want to be.”

Derek Carr is the Raiders.

Then Carr entered the room. Forthright. Honest. Eager to please.

How did you play today?” I asked.

“Not how I wanted,” he said.

“Does that mean OK, not so good?” I asked.

“You can grade me,” he said. “I don’t know.”
Well, I’d like to give him a kind grade, something like a “C-minus.” And I flirted with that. But then reality knocked me in the head. Carr, nice young man that he is, threw away the game — the biggest game the Raiders have played in ages. A quarterback doesn’t get a “C-minus” for a performance like that. I’m sorry, Derek, you get an “F.”

Why? You let the Chiefs bang your windows.

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