The Oakland Raiders’ 2016 season was filled with drama and headlines on different levels of the organization. Head coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback Derek Carr led the Raiders to a 12-4 record, their first winning season and clinched playoff birth since the run to the Super Bowl in 2002.
However, their season was cut short officially on Saturday, as they feel to the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild Card game. The organization saw the loss of their franchise quarterback, as Carr fell to a broken fibula, ending his 2016 season and potential NFL MVP nomination.
The Raiders confidently went to Matt McGloin, but the back up also got injured against the Denver Broncos, leaving their faith in the hands of rookie quarterback Connor Cook. The Michigan State alumnus was the first quarterback to make his first career start in the playoffs, facing a daunting challenge.
He faced constant pressure from the Texans, with the defensive line getting after him in multiple ways. Texans’ defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel dialed up different schemes to get Cook off guard, which worked in delaying any timing for Cook to work with.
Cook finished the game completing 18 of 45 passes, for 161 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Filling in Carr’s shoes, Cook attempted to keep the game close, but ultimately couldn’t succeed. Carr was asked about how Cook faired in his first start and shared some dialogue the two players had together, via Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com:
“He [Cook] won’t ever be in a tougher situation than he was then,” Carr said. “His first action, real, being the starter action, was in the playoffs, against the number one defense on paper, in football. It will never be harder for him, and I told him that. I said, ‘bro, you made great throws. I saw your decisions – even though not a lot of people could see it – I saw what you were doing. Are there things you want to correct? Yeah, absolutely. I have the same feelings after every game.’…. I’ve seen how much better he’s gotten since he got here. He’s going to be a great player in this league. I’m not worried about him.”
Carr has taken pride in becoming the vocal leader of this team, connecting with each of his teammates and providing a strong base, alongside Del Rio, to grow with.
This season was dubbed the return to greatness by Del Rio and the organization, as the 12-4 record left promise to work with. While the turmoil regarding their relocation remains in the air, the Raiders will definitely have at least two more seasons in Oakland.
Carr was asked about the progression made this season for the Raiders and had an optimistic response in regards to the outlook moving forward:
“What we did hasn’t been done here in a long time, and that’s something to feel good about it, but the thing that hurts is what’s going to motivate us for the future,” Carr said. “The thing that sits in our heart and makes us sick to our stomach, that, that competitiveness, that drive, is what’s going to continue to help us get better.”
Although the Raiders season ended in the AFC Wild Card, the pillars of the franchise remain hungry to come back and help aid the Raiders on their return to greatness. Under Del Rio, major progress has been made in his two seasons, as the Raiders only expect to keep growing.