Pluses of signing Derek Carr outweigh the minuses for Saints
In baseball, when you hit safety three of 10 times, you are an elite hitter, a star and perhaps destined for the Hall of Fame.
Also in baseball, you get three strikes.
In football, you have to hit on more than three of 10 moves that you make.
In football, you will seldom get to three strikes without losing your job.
Dennis Allen is keenly aware of the facts and the numbers game and he is keenly aware of a need to prove himself as an NFL head coach.
In 2022, Allen was all in on trying to secure the services of Deshaun Watson.
Allen and the Saints tried hard but swung and missed.
Watson chose the Cleveland Browns, hardly a destination location, hardly a successful NFL franchise in recent times.
Obviously, some were happy, very happy that Watson did not come to New Orleans, given his off-field issues.
This time around, Allen and the organization were all in on Derek Carr and tried hard. They swung and hit it out of the park, outworking the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers to get Carr. The relationship history between Allen and Carr proved substantive in the decision.
Issues are always a concern, as was the case with Watson.
Carr has no such issues.
By all accounts, Carr is a good person, a likeable guy and is frequently complimented for his leadership skills.
Is he a good football player?
Carr is an interesting case study.
From the perspective of the New Orleans Saints, Carr is clearly a better option, a better player than Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston.
From their perspective, the Saints have upgraded the most important position on the team.
From their perspective, the Saints now have the best quarterback in a poor division and may now be the favorite to win that division. Do Kyle Trask, Desmond Ridder and Sam Darnold inspire awe or fear with any New Orleans Saints fan?
That is the first goal of any team in building a squad, to amass enough talent to win the division.
The other goals, obviously, are winning the conference and the Super Bowl.
For what it is worth, Carr has been to four Pro Bowls.
Of course, one of those was this past season, his worst in the league.
The Pro Bowl honor is clearly not what is used to be. It is no longer a measuring stick to the success of players as it once was.
That said, Carr earned Pro Bowl honors on three other occasions when he played well.
First, let’s explore the negatives of the move.
Yes, the financial investment matters. Spending or overspending on one player will impact the organization in many ways.
No, Derek Carr is not an elite quarterback.
No, Carr is not a savior.
No, Carr does not have a winning record as a quarterback in the league at 63-80.
No, it did not end well for Carr with the Raiders.
No, Carr did not have a good season in 2022.
Carr completed just 60.8 percent of his passes, the worst completion percentage of his nine-year career. Carr passed for 3,522 yards, the third fewest yards in his career. While he passed for 24 touchdowns, Carr threw 14 interceptions last season, tied for the most in a single season in his career. His passer rating of 86.3 was a career low. Carr has not won playoff games. The 2022 season was a year of turmoil for an organization constantly in turmoil.
Watching tape of Carr, he can make all the throws, something Dalton cannot do at this stage of his career. If you have a chance to convince Dalton to return on a team-friendly deal to a system he knows as a valued backup, which was the plan for him in the first place, the Saints should do so.
Carr, by all measures, is a good person.
He has the endorsement of Saints leaders in Demario Davis and Cam Jordan.
He has the ringing endorsement of Dennis Allen, whom he worked with previously and enjoys a close relationship with.
The positives are clear.
As mentioned, Carr is a good person and good leader.
Carr can make all the throws.
Since 1960, Carr ranks tied for 16th in game-winning drives with 33. The only active quarterbacks in the league with more are Matthew Stafford (42), a Super Bowl champion, and Russell Wilson (35), a Super Bowl champion. You can add Matt Ryan (46), if he continues playing in 2023. Ryan has been to a Super Bowl.
Incidentally, the top five in that category since 1960 are Tom Brady (58), Peyton Manning (54), Drew Brees (53), Ben Roethlisberger (53) and Dan Marino (47), which speaks volumes. Carr has performed well in many clutch situations. He simply has not been put into many of those situations with a consistently mediocre to below average team.
Carr departs the Raiders as the all-time leader in passing yards, pass completions and passing touchdowns.
Carr has not benefited from being with a stable, solid organization. Since 2003, the Raiders have enjoyed just two winning seasons (2016, 2021), both with Carr as their starting quarterback. The Raiders have not won a playoff game since 2002. They are in their third city in three decades. The Raiders have employed 15 head coaches or Interim head coaches since 1990. Carr had six head coaches in his nine seasons with the Raiders, along with many offensive coordinators.
Those head coaches included Allen, Tony Sparano, Jack Del Rio, Gruden, Rich Bisaccia and Josh McDaniels.
By any measure, the words stable and solid to not in any way define or resemble the Las Vegas/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, who went through a mess with Jon Gruden, had the major distraction of Henry Ruggs and now have an unproven head coach in McDaniels, who clearly did not value Carr.
By any measure, the words stable and solid define and resemble the New Orleans Saints, from ownership to the same general manager for two decades to the same head coach for 15 years. The belief and hope is that Carr, a talented passer and a solid and stable guy, will flourish in a solid, stable environment.
The Saints have seen Carr twice in recent years.
In 2020, the Raiders beat the Saints 34-24 in Las Vegas.
Carr was very good, completing 28 of 38 for 284 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
This past season, the Raiders visited New Orleans and the Saints hammered Carr and Las Vegas 24-0.
Carr was not good, completing just 15 of 26 passes for 101 yards with no touchdowns and an interception as he was harassed throughout and sacked three times.
While the Saints were good defensively in 2022, the Saints were 20th in scoring offense and 19th in total offense a year ago. That must improve.
Carr is not a top five quarterback in the league and likely is not a top 10 quarterback. He is a top 20 quarterback and when good, he is a top 15 quarterback, based on his prior accomplishments. There is a large sample size.
He is not and cannot be Drew Brees or approaching how good Brees was. It will be hard to match that at any point in the franchise history. He is not a mobile quarterback who will make plays with his running ability, a clear trend in the league among a new wave of talented young quarterbacks.
By comparison to Jameis Winston and Dalton, Carr gets the most favored nod.
Carr has completed 64.6 percent of his passes with 217 touchdown passes and 99 interceptions with a Quarterback Rating of 91.8.
Winston, 34-46 as a starter, has completed 61.3 percent of his passes with 139 touchdown passes and 96 interceptions with a Quarterback Rating of 87.5.
Dalton, 83-77-2 as a starter, has completed 62.5 percent of his passes with 244 touchdown passes and 144 interceptions with a Quarterback Rating of 87.6.
By securing Carr, the Saints can now focus on the draft and immediate needs, most notably, at running back while a defensive lineman and an offensive lineman certainly could figure in the mix.
Now, Mickey Loomis and Khai Harley have to work their annual magic to get the organization cap-compliant without damaging the roster too much.
Carr must prove himself.
There is part of the fan base in New Orleans that will love the move and embrace Carr and cheer him wildly.
There is part of the fan base in New Orleans that will question the numbers as to whether Carr is actually an upgrade over Dalton.
There is part of the fan base in New Orleans that will question how the organization treated Winston that wanted to see Jameis get healthy and get a chance.
Then, there is a small part of that fan base that still believes Taysom Hill can be a good NFL starter at quarterback.
If Carr plays well, particularly early on in 2023, he will win the troops over.
If Carr struggles, particularly early in 2023, there will be second-guessing.
Only time will tell if Loomis and Allen struck out, hit a weak ground ball or hit a home run with Carr.
The guess here is the answer lies somewhere in-between, as in an extra base hit.
Sean Payton tied his coaching career to Brees.
Dennis Allen has tied his to Carr.
If that translates into extra wins, it was a good move and the Saints do not have to address the most important position on the team for a few years and will be the favorite to win the NFC South.
While it is not the perfect move, the pluses of signing Carr outweigh the minuses. Of course, he will have to do much better than 3 for 10 when it comes to completing passes, batting for a higher average as it translates to football.
Carr is the starter and in baseball parlance, he will also get the save if he plays to his full potential.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…