Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders is one of the best young players in the National Football League. His 53 passing touchdowns through two seasons are the second most in NFL history, and most experts are predicting that 2016 will be the year he leads Oakland back to the playoffs. But how good can he be?
The Significance of Derek Carr‘s Third Season
The Third Year
The third year of a quarterback’s career is huge. After two years of learning the pro style and adjusting to NFL speed, quarterbacks are expected to make the big leap and take control of the offense. The players that rise to the challenge join the ranks of the NFL’s elite, and those who don’t often become nothing more than game managers. Here are a few examples.
Peyton Manning retired in 2016, ending one of the greatest careers in NFL history. Manning’s 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns are the most all-time, and in his 2013 season, he broke the records for yards and touchdowns in a season when he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. His five NFL MVPs are also the most of any player ever, and he won two Super Bowls. Any list of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history is incomplete without Manning’s name.
Manning’s first two seasons were good, not great. He managed to throw for 26 touchdowns both years, and broke 4,000 yards in his second season. But Manning didn’t really become an elite quarterback until his third season, when he broke out and threw for 4,413 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only 15 interceptions.
Despite a rocky 2015 season, Manning’s replacement in Indianapolis is also among the NFL’s elite. Like Manning, Andrew Luck dabbled in the mid-20’s for the first two years of his career, before having a massive third season. In Luck’s third year, he had a phenomenal season, throwing for over 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns. Only seven men in NFL history have thrown for more touchdowns in a season than Luck did in 2014.
Before Peyton Manning broke the all-time touchdown record, it was held by Brett Favre. In his illustrious career, Favre threw for 71,838 yards and 508 touchdowns. But in his first two years as a starter, Favre’s numbers weren’t very impressive. In his first two years as the starter for the Green Bay Packers, Favre threw for 6,530 yards, 37 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. It wasn’t until 1994, Favre’s third season, that the NFL got a glimpse of what would make him so special.
In his third season, Favre threw for 33 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. Favre’s numbers would only get better in the following years as he threw for more touchdowns and yardage, eventually setting records that would stand for several years.
Unlike the other men on this list, Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens didn’t break out during his third season. After a decent start to his career, Flacco only threw for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. In his career, he’s never broken 4,000 passing yards or 30 touchdowns. Joe Flacco hit his ceiling, and has never been mentioned among the elite.
So Derek Carr’s third year is a big one. On one hand, he could evolve like Luck or Manning, breaking 4,000 passing yards and at the very least, matching last year’s touchdown total. On the other, he could hit his ceiling like Flacco, failing to develop as a quarterback or even regressing.
Carr is in a great position. His defense is young and upcoming, and there’s talent all over the offense. He has arguably the best offensive line in football, a handful of talented receivers, and he plays in a division that’s on the decline. If he can’t succeed with the likes of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Clive Walford, and a pair of young running backs in Latavius Murray and DeAndre Washington, then there’s really nobody to blame but himself. However, if Carr can rise to the challenge and live up to his expectations, he could be well on his way to becoming one of the NFL’s elite.