HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — If quarterback Derek Carr wants to return to the Las Vegas Raiders next season, as he has said, he hasn't done much the past month to help his case.
He hasn't completed more than 55% of his passes in any of his past four games, and he's thrown more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (six) over that span.
The Raiders are 2-2 in those games, with last-minute losses at the Los Angeles Rams and at Pittsburgh that have knocked them out of serious playoff contention. Las Vegas is behind four other bubble teams for the postseason with two weeks remaining.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said Monday that Carr isn't the only one responsible for making the passing game work, but he acknowledged the offense hasn't performed at an acceptable level.
“For us to be able to win at this time of the year and be productive, offensively you have to throw the ball better than what we’ve thrown at times here in the last month and a half,” McDaniels said. “We’ve been able to win some in spite of that, overall, but clearly that’s not the goal. The goal would be to be more productive than what we’ve been.”
In Saturday night's 13-10 loss at Pittsburgh, Carr engineered a 14-play, 72-yard drive — passing for 55 yards — to start the game and put the Raiders ahead 7-0. Las Vegas managed just a field goal the rest of the game as Carr threw for 119 yards.
“When you don't do your best, you let your team down, let the organization and fans down,” Carr said after the game. “It breaks your heart. At the end of the day, nobody cares. You get back up and keep going.”
Beyond the on-field play are the financial implications.
Carr signed a three-year extension in April in which he would be guaranteed $33 million for 2023 unless the Raiders move on before Feb. 15. If they do, his salary cap hit would be $5.6 million.
A serious injury over the final two games would mean Carr receives the $33 million, so there would be incentive to bench a struggling quarterback and not risk him getting hurt.
McDaniels didn’t exactly pound the table when asked if he would keep Carr in the starting lineup.
“I think there’s a possibility that we would do the right thing regardless of the position,” McDaniels said.
What the right thing could be in the long term is uncertain.
Carr has been at least an above-average quarterback over his nine years, and he willed the Raiders into the postseason last year with a late run. But that also was just the franchise's second playoff appearance with Carr behind center.
Management could take a look at the free-agent market, though there appear to be few if any options better than Carr. This projects as one of the better drafts for quarterbacks, but history has shown even those taken high often don't succeed.
If Carr plays the final two games and doesn't improve, the Raiders could come to the conclusion they need to take their chances with a different quarterback.
The Raiders did not fumble in two of their past three games and didn't lose the ball in all three. They have one lost fumble in the past seven games and four all season. Las Vegas is tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the league lead in fumbles lost per game at 0.2.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
After a stretch in which the Raiders recorded 16 sacks in five games, they have reverted to their early-season form with zero in the past two. Las Vegas totaled nine sacks in its first eight games. DE Chandler Jones being out with an elbow injury suffered Saturday doesn't help.
Rookie LB Luke Masterson led the Raiders with 10 tackles, his second double-digit total in a row. He didn't start until Nov. 13 against the Indianapolis Colts, and before that hadn't played on defense other than two snaps in the season opener. The Raiders found a gem as an undrafted free agent.
Carr. In the Raiders' most recent two losses, he has barely completed more than half his passes and has averaged 155.5 yards, with one touchdown pass and five picks.
Jones and LB Denzel Perryman (shoulder) could be done for the season, McDaniels said. LB Divine Deablo (forearm) is eligible to come off injured reserve, but McDaniels said he didn't know if Deablo would be activated.
15 — Josh Jacobs' total carries against the Steelers. He wasn't happy about it, either, saying afterward the team should have committed more to the running game.
The Raiders are back at home Sunday to face NFC West champion San Francisco.
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