It was a very somber day for the NFL. Many young stars went out with nasty injuries and what looked to be an exciting Christmas Eve in the NFL turned sour with major injuries to Marcus Mariota, Tyler Lockett, Bryce Petty, RG3, Carlos Hyde and Derek Carr. The RG3 and Bryce Petty injuries are not as important in the scheme of this season because both teams are miles out playoff contention. However, Carr, Mariota, and Lockett were on teams either in the playoffs or were making a push, and all three broke a bone in their leg. Lockett is an important piece to the Seahawks, but it will be possible for Seattle to make up for the loss. Luckily for the Titans, Mariota’s injury would have been devastating to the team, but they were eliminated from playoff contention with Houston’s win over Cincinnati. While the injury was painful, it has no meaning for the present nor the future because Mariota will easily be back to full health next season and this season would have ended anyways. For the Oakland Raiders, Derek Carr will most likely miss the rest of the season, which is an absolutely brutal blow to the team and Raider Nation, who have waited 14 years to see their team in the playoffs and make a push for the Lombardi Trophy.
The Oakland Raiders looked to be playing their best football of the year Saturday against the Colts. They had a slow start to the game, by not scoring in the first quarter, but exploded with great defense and great offense to go up 33-7 in the midway through the 3rd quarter. This team was running the ball at will, creating pressure leading to turnovers, and the passing game had big plays one after another. They finally looked like Super Bowl contenders with this complete game, but it only took one play for the season to turn. Trent Cole came around the edge, beating Donald Penn (his first sack given up all season, an NFL record), and sacked Derek Carr. His leg got twisted and the fibula (near the ankle) broke. Carr knew immediately. He screamed in pain and mouthed to the training staff that it broke. The stadium went from a massive celebration to utter silence and worry. The Raider players and fans knew that the season relied on the health of Derek Carr’s leg and it did not look promising. Jack Del Rio later told us during the postgame press conference that Carr has a broken fibula that will require surgery the next day and is out indefinitely.
So what is next for the Oakland Raiders?
The season is not over. There is still hope that Derek Carr can come back to play again this season. Normally the injury time is 4-6 weeks for full recovery. Every once in awhile a player can come back in 3 weeks, which we saw with Charles Woodson in 2002. If a corner can come back to play, then a QB has a shot as well. Nevertheless, we know Derek Carr will be out next week. Hopefully, that game will not matter if the Broncos can beat the Chiefs later tonight, which would result in the Raiders clinching the division title and a first-round bye. The first round bye is now an absolute necessity for the Raiders. If the Raiders can get a bye, then it will be 3 weeks until their next important game. 3 weeks is a possible return time for Derek Carr. It is extremely unlikely, but still possible with the right treatment. More realistic is a 4-week return (still unlikely but more plausible). That would mean the Raiders would have to get a bye, but still win that first playoff game, which is also not out of the question, especially if it is at home. Everyone is talented in the NFL and maybe Raider Nation can will the team to a victory. It is also possible that there are some upsets and maybe the Raiders would only have to beat Houston at home in their first playoff game. If the Raiders play Houston at home, I would like their chances of winning even without Derek Carr. Anyways, it is a sad time for Raider Nation to lose their MVP candidate. However, the book is not done yet. It is not out of the question for Carr to come back, even if it is a minor miracle because it has been done before.
As much as we would love to see Carr comeback, there is still a question on whether or not the Raiders should let him play if he can. Him coming back early would involve a minor risk for the future. This is a question for that time if it comes, but if it does, there is no easy answer to that question if it has to be asked. Is it worth having him play if there is a minor risk for the future knowing the Raiders have a chance to build a perennial contender?
In Matt McGloin You Must Trust
We have to expect that Carr is not going to return. That is the most likely outcome of the situation. So what does Oakland have in Matt McGloin? He is a walk-on from Penn State and ended up being a solid starting quarterback in college. He started 6 games in his rookie season in the NFL (2013) and was a solid option. He had good arm strength and led a fairly explosive offense that had no talent around him. The one negative was his tendency to turn the football over. In his 6 starts, he threw 8 TD’s but also threw 8 interceptions. The 8 interceptions are worrisome, but now he has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL protecting him, a solid running game, and two stud WR’s. His last stint was 3 seasons ago, and it was his rookie season with a 4 win team around him. It would be idiotic to think that Matt McGloin is not going to be better than he was 3 seasons ago, which wasn’t terrible. He has had time to learn behind Carr and improve his own craft. So I don’t believe that he is going to be terrible at Quarterback. The Raiders used a 2nd round tender to keep him on the team for a reason. They believe he can be a solid quarterback and I believe he will too. The loss of Carr is absolutely massive, and there is no way that McGloin will be anywhere near Carr’s level, but do not be surprised if he plays good football. Solid play, with the improving Raider’s defense, could be enough to win one playoff game and hopefully give enough time for Carr to heal and come back for the AFC Championship game.
Raider Nation, that was one of the toughest days to be a Raider, but it is time to start believing like everyone has the whole year. McGloin can be solid and possibly get one playoff win, which may be enough to get Derek Carr back and lead the Raiders to a storybook Super Bowl. It is unlikely, but crazy things happen in sports ever year, so why not us?
Read this game recap from ESPN on Matt McGloin’s start a few seasons ago. Nothing but positive words: http://www.espn.com/nfl/recap/_/gameId/331117034
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.