Rejuvenated Carr looks to rejuvenate Saints
The unanimous opinion of all I have spoken to in the New Orleans Saints organization and covering the team is that Derek Carr has made a favorable early impression on all.
Make that a very positive, favorable impression.
Carr won his introductory press conference with his words, smiles and overall presence.
What we have seen, to this point, is a poised, mature person who has handled himself with integrity and class. To many observers, first impressions have left many of those persons flashing back to Drew Brees and how he conducted himself when originally signing with the franchise and when he was the most integral player with the franchise. Like Brees, Carr is a strong family man and strong man of faith. These are all encouraging characteristics to embrace.
First and foremost, let us keep the euphoric feelings in check, at least measured.
Carr is not Brees and never will be.
There is only one Brees, who retired as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
With the departure of Sean Payton, who was a huge personality and the demonstrative, clear leader of the franchise and with the departure of Brees, the strong personality and clear leader on the field, there was a huge, make that a tremendous void in the leadership aspect with the Saints, abilities aside of the Super Bowl winning coach and player.
Dennis Allen brings a calming, business-like approach to the head coaching position. The organization stayed the course by promoting him in a job and franchise which was not broken and had posted five straight winning seasons.
Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis are the unquestionable leaders of the team. Both play on the defensive side of the ball.
The Saints were in need, perhaps dire need of a leader on the offensive side.
With all due respect to Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, that role was not filled.
Allen, Mickey Loomis, Gayle Benson and the entire Saints organization is behind Carr and believing that he can be that leader.
By all accounts, Carr has embraced the responsibility, accepting the role while relishing the opportunity to play for a coach that he began his career with who believed in him. It is a new beginning for Carr after a sour ending with a dysfunctional franchise which encompassed two cities, six head coaches and four offensive coordinators in nine years with just two winning seasons.
Carr is smiling. He is, in his own words, “rejuvenated” by his presence in the black and gold, rather than the black and silver.
While there were some detractors, Carr was, unquestionably, a popular signing.
Davis, Jordan and Michael Thomas all endorsed the move and supported it publicly with Thomas re-signing with the franchise for a year, in no small part because of the presence of Carr.
With the Saints, Carr has the familiar presence of Foster Moreau, whom he admired and enjoyed playing with in Las Vegas. Moreau is on the road for what would be a remarkable recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Thomas returns, hopefully healthy.
Carr has an emerging star in tight end Juwan Johnson, along with an emerging star in Chris Olave. There is the addition of James Washington, who caught 114 passes and 11 touchdowns from 2019-2022 and is still just 27. If Washington is healthy, perhaps he can rejuvenate his career as Carr hopes to do in New Orleans.
Rashid Shaheed is a burner and could be more prominent in the offense with Carr’s ability to throw the deep ball. Taysom Hill is a weapon in many aspects and the Saints are hoping A.T. Perry emerges as the big receiver the team wants to fill a void. The hope is that Alvin Kamara will play this season, at least in part, and the addition of Jamaal Williams, along with draft pick Kendre Miller, gives Carr even more to work with.
Clearly, the most important aspect of Carr’s presence is his play on the field and that must manifest itself by the time September rolls around.
Last season was not a good one for Carr.
He threw for 3,522 yards, completed just 60.8 percent of his passes, threw 24 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 86.3. He fell out of favor with first-year head coach Josh McDaniels.
That came a year after Carr passed for 4,804 yards, completing 68.4 percent of his passes while throwing 23 touchdown passes with 14 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 94.0.
In 2020, Carr was even better, throwing for 4,103 yards, completing 67.3 percent of his passes while throwing 27 touchdowns with just nine interceptions with a quarterback rating of 101.4, the best of his career.
Watching him play frequently and watching video, Carr can still make all the throws.
In New Orleans, Carr must make the throws.
In New Orleans, Carr must assume a complete leadership role.
In New Orleans, Carr must embrace the winning culture created by Loomis, Gayle Benson, Payton and Brees which produced 10 winning seasons, seven NFC South titles, three NFC championship game appearances and a Super Bowl championship.
In New Orleans, it all comes down to winning games, winning a division title and making real noise in the postseason.
In New Orleans, Carr must establish his own identity and a new identity for the Saints organization as Allen finds his comfort level with more of his own staff and personnel surrounding him.
It can happen.
So far, Carr has won over observers.
Now, it is his time to produce a winner for the Saints.
With the start of OTA’s, the process has begun. Let’s hope the ending is a long way down the road with many memorable moments and accomplishments to point to by the time it concludes with Carr rejuvenating himself and a franchise in the process.
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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…