There are strong, silent quarterbacks. There are grumpy, old quarterbacks. There are quarterbacks with the social skills of a tackling dummy.
And then there is Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who appears to be running for student body president.
Carr is the cheeriest, most socially-engaged local sports star this side of Steph Curry. He is a bumper of fists, a pointer toward players who make good plays and an instigator of throw-back-the-head-and-laugh sideline sessions with head coach Jack Del Rio.
After he lofted a delicate touchdown pass in the second exhibition game, Carr ran to the sideline, enveloped quarterback coach Todd Downing in a hug and lifted him off the ground.
And just think, soon the games will actually mean something.
Following a breakout season and emergence on the national stage, it is a wonderful time to be Derek Carr. He’s happy with everything and everybody. At his press session last Tuesday he stepped briskly to the mic, checked out the media horde and said: “Hi, friends.”
I rest my case.
He really is almost too good to be true. Last year, he stopped to give an out-of-gas motorist a lift. Then he asked the guy if he wanted to pray with him.
All of which could come across as cloying and annoying if it weren’t for the obvious. He can play.
This is where we insert columns of metrics proving the point. But there’s really only one statistic. When the Raiders got Carr, they got better.
A lot better.
What’s interesting, now that he’s starting his fourth season, is it seems the Raiders knew he was a unicorn right away.
Between praising teammates and calling the general manager “Mr. McKenzie” (C’mon Derek, you can call him Reggie) at his presser, Carr tossed off an interesting story.
He said after a loss in his first season Del Rio pulled him aside and “started showing me plays and stats and these things compared to some Hall of Fame guys.”
“I want you to know,” Carr says Del Rio told him, “you can be one of these guys.”
That, Carr said, was a turning point. He knew the coach had his back.
As for the players, it would be reasonable to assume he faced some pretty unforgiving critics. When he was a coach with the Oakland A’s, Clete Boyer said a rookie once asked him how to be a team leader.
“You want to be a leader?” Boyer said. “Hit .300.”
Nice guys have to earn it like everyone else. It’s all about results.
Again, we can go through the numbers, but that Downing-hugging touchdown throw against the Rams makes the case nicely. Twenty-seven yards in the air … over the linebacker … fitted into the narrow, fast-closing window between the corner and safety … and the ball drops perfectly into the tight end’s hands as he topples into the end zone.
Want to be an NFL quarterback? Do that.
So now the question is: Is this Carr’s team? It would be pretty amazing if it is. He’s only 26.
But it looks like the Raider players are all in. Who doesn’t appreciate enthusiasm when you make the playoffs for the first time since 2002? They look ready to jump on this train and ride it as far as it will go.