Wait, wasn't Derek Carr supposed to thrive under Jon Gruden?

LONDON -- Derek Carr stood at the podium, talking and motioning solely with his right hand as his left shoulder looked frozen in place. The Oakland Raiders' $125 million quarterback kept his left hand in his pocket, almost as if to keep the arm and shoulder stationary, during his 11-minute media appearance.

Midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks -- a game in which Carr was hit 10 times and sacked six times -- Carr was pounded to the Wembley Stadium pitch especially hard as Seattle's Jarran Reed drove Carr's left shoulder into the ground.

"Just a little bruise," Carr insisted. "I'll be all right."

Will he though?

Carr has looked a shell of his 2016 self, when he authored seven comeback victories and finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting. At best this season he has shown flashes of the gunslinger who steps into throws and takes off running for first downs. At worst he looks lost in his own head, if not in Jon Gruden's complicated offense.

To be fair, Carr is on his fourth different playcaller in his fifth NFL season. Carr's best year came the only time in which he had the same offensive coordinator for a second straight season -- Bill Musgrave, in 2016. It would only be human if the injuries -- a broken pinkie finger on his right (passing) hand, a fractured right fibula and three broken bones in his back in less than 11 months -- were still in his head.

Especially with the pain he showed coming off the field and into the sideline medical tent against the Seahawks.

But wasn't Gruden hired with the intention of "fixing" Carr? Were they not supposed to make beautiful music together as Gruden finally had a franchise-type quarterback in his prime?

Yeah, about that ...

Carr, with eight interceptions and two lost fumbles, leads the NFL with 10 giveaways, and the Raiders are bottom feeders at 1-5 heading into their bye week.

In Gruden's dink-and-dunk version of the West Coast offense, Carr is getting rid of the ball faster than any NFL quarterback at 2.41 seconds, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Sure, Carr has had the reputation of being a guy that relishes taking deep shots, but he won't be compared to the Mad Bomber Daryle Lamonica anytime soon.

Consider: While Carr's average pass has never traveled that far downfield (7.4 yards for his NFL career), he has been ultraconservative under Gruden. Because among QBs with at least 100 passes this season, his pass on average is traveling an NFL-low 5.73 yards downfield. The NFL average passing distance among quarterbacks with that many attempts this season is 7.9 yards, with Carr's average the only one under 6 yards.

On the flip side, though, Carr's short passing distance has led to him having the lowest off-target rate in the league, 7.6 percent. ESPN Stats & Information defines "off target" as the percentage of passes over- or underthrown by a quarterback. And he is competing 71.7 percent of his passes thus far, after completing 58.1, 61.1, 63.8 and 62.7 percent in his first four seasons.

And therin lies an issue -- Gruden wants Carr to be aggressive, but not reckless. Push the envelope, just not too far. Take your shots, but be smart about it.

Sounds like the job description of any NFL QB, right? It's just that the Carr-Gruden dynamic is so unique, with Gruden coming out of ESPN's Monday Night Football booth after nine seasons to coach Carr in his decidedly old-school ways. Which make it look like, at times, Carr can't get out of his own way. Almost as if Carr is playing to please his coach by overthinking things, rather than just, well, playing.

Some of Carr's issues, though, predate Gruden's arrival. They actually started to rear their head under former offensive coordinator Todd Downing last season.

As ESPN Stats & Information found, Carr leads the NFL in interceptions on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield with 10 since 2017. He only threw two picks on such throws in 2016. Since the start of last season, Carr has only completed 33.3 percent of passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, compared to 49.0 in 2016. His yards-per-attempt average the past two seasons is 12.2 yards, when it was 16.7 yards two seasons ago on throws of at least 20 yards downfield.

Carr told Gruden on his QB Camp show coming out of Fresno State in 2014 that he could make "any throw" in the NFL.

Welp, the threading of the needle needs some help.

The past two seasons, NFL Next Gen Stats has Carr as the league's worst quarterback when it comes to forcing the ball into tight windows, as in an NFL-high 13 interceptions when throwing a pass to a receiver who has 1 yard or less of separation as the pass arrives. The New York Giants' Eli Manning is second with nine INTs in those situations.

More from NFL Next Gen Stats: Among 34 quarterbacks with at least 50 tight-window attempts since the start of 2017, Carr's 28 percent completion rate on those passes is the third-worst in the NFL.

Of course, being under constant duress would have an effect on Carr's accuracy. He is on pace to be sacked 45 times this season. His career high is 41 in 2015; he was sacked 16 times in all of 2016.

Having two rookies at the tackle positions, an injured first-rounder in Kolton Miller on the left side and third-rounder Brandon Parker on the right side, as well as a third-string left guard in Justin Murray do not help matters.

"We're going to have to do the best we can to find five men that can collectively pass protect much better," Gruden said. "And that's what we'll do."

They need to. ESPN Stats & Information found that Carr has five INTs and no TDs when pressured this season, the most such picks by any quarterback in the league.

And Carr could also stand to get more help from his pass-catchers.

Since entering the league four years ago, 124 of Carr's passes have been dropped, tying him with Manning for most in the NFL during that time frame.


There's a few reasons Carr did not go back into the game Sunday after taking that final sack -- the Seahawks ran out the final 8:18 and Carr's shoulder was banged up. But even as Carr pleaded with Gruden to go back in the game had Oakland gotten the ball back, Gruden had seen enough.

"Losses happen, bad things happen," Carr said. "But not being able to finish a game with your team, especially when you're losing? Man, that will rip your heart out. No matter how I feel, I wanted to finish. But coach, it's his job. He wanted to protect me, that's all."

As well as coach him up and get the Raiders in general, Carr in particular, moving in the right direction in what is increasingly becoming an obvious rebuild season in Oakland.

"I've been a part of things like this where it's hard at first, but I tell them all the time, I promise you, when we're on the other side of this, it will be so worth it," Carr said. "Do not hang your head for a second."

Carr was talking about the Raiders rookies. He might as well have been looking at Gruden, or in a mirror.