Over the 2016 season, Todd Downing grew more impressed every game by quarterback Derek Carr’s command of the Raiders offense.
The third-year player from Fresno State knew the playbook inside and out, knew what to look for in opposing defenses and showed a confidence he didn’t have in previous seasons.
Now, Downing – recently promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator – wants to take advantage of Carr’s evolution into one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks. Downing doesn’t intend to change the offense much, but hopes to cater it more to Carr’s strengths. He wants Carr to be more involved in planning as well as execution.
“There’s been a lot made about his command at the line of scrimmage,” Downing said Tuesday in a conference call with Bay Area media. “There’s certainly going to be opportunities for Derek to do that. … Where I see him needing a little bit more command is just being able to share his thoughts of game plans. Being a student of the game as he already is, but vocalize what he likes and doesn’t like.
“I think my relationship with him is something that’s going to give him the opportunity to voice his opinions. I look forward to him really taking charge of expressing his thoughts on the offense.”
Downing says changes to the offense – which ranked sixth in the league in 2016 – will be “subtle.” He says he’s not going to make changes in the system put in by Bill Musgrave just to put his stamp on it.
Downing is familiar with the personnel, has a good relationship with Carr and wants the offense to be more effective through fine-tuning rather than a rebuild.
“All we’re doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better, and how we can just quarter-turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible.”
As Kevin Patra of NFL.com noted, the elevation of Downing could have a big payoff for Carr and the Raiders.
“As we saw with league MVP Matt Ryan and countless others over NFL history, when a quarterback gets a bigger say in the game plan – noting plays he has confidence in or believes will work against a defense – his career can blossom and his play is taken to the next level,” wrote Patra. “Giving Carr a bigger say is one reason Downing is now in charge of the Raiders’ offense.”