Jon Gruden loves quarterback Derek Carr. Just ask him.
Well, that might be tough before he's announced, as expected, as the next Raiders head coach.
Then ask Gruden circa 2016. Or Gruden circa 2014, before Carr entered the NFL draft. Don't sweat not having a time machine. Gruden's been on ESPN nearly a decade now, where most everything's archived.
Let's go back to the Gruden QB Camp segment with Carr. Gruden said he'd pick Derek over his older brother David, who was 2002's No. 1 overall pick.
"I appreciate that," Derek said. "Let's go win some championships, now."
That'll be the immediate goal if (and when) Gruden comes aboard. Maximizing Carr's potential will go a long way toward that end.
Gruden's first in-person impression came during that Gruden QB Camp filming in 2014, and in stuck with him two years later.
"I can remember him throwing the ball like it was yesterday," Gruden said in a conference call advancing a 2016 game between the Raiders and Texans in Mexico City. "We have two cameras set up 20 yards downfield on each hash mark, and we threw some seam passes toward them. Most of the guys hit the screen, a couple would hit the target. Derek Carr hit the bull's eye both times and broke my cameras. He put on a show for the NFL players."
That was in response to a question about Carr's ability. Then Gruden said something unprompted.
"What hasn't been said about Carr today is about his intangibles," Gruden said. "He's such an upbeat kid. He has so much passion and energy and leadership. He is fun to be around. He's a superstar."
Praise came in the midst of an excellent 2016 campaign where Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate.
"To put it honestly, this guy has a cannon. He's got a gun," Gruden said. "He can throw it tight windows with very little movement. He has a quick release and very little lower body movement. He has an arsenal of receivers. Al Davis would be very proud of Derek Carr."
Gruden should know. He worked for Al Davis as Raiders head coach from 1998-2001. He'll soon work for Al's son Mark, who took control when Al Davis died in 2011. The Raiders could announce Gruden's second stint with the Raiders within the coming days.
Mark Davis really wanted Gruden back, and will pay handsomely for his services. Carr may well have been another attraction to return to the Raiders, among several factors.
Some scoff at Gruden's Carr praise, saying he's complimentary of so many in a broadcasting role. He's known to carry strong, not always fond opinions away from hot microphones.
That's certainly possible, but it's hard to imagine Gruden coming to a place with a quarterback he didn't like when winning right away was a requisite. The Raiders must keep butts in Oakland Coliseum seats and start building toward a big move to Las Vegas in 2020.
Gruden has work ahead getting Carr right after a disappointing 2017 season where he regressed in several key metrics. Talk of Carr being unable to handle Gruden's often-terse coaching style seems silly. Carr doesn't mind four-letter words, even though he prefers not to say them.
Carr certainly has the work ethic and drive to absorb Gruden's offense and handle the criticism that comes after making mistakes.
Charles Woodson's a good resource on how Gruden and Carr could work together. The future Hall of Fame safety played for Gruden, and with Carr for multiple seasons. He believes this marriage will prosper.
"I know Jon Gruden loves the quarterback position," Woodson said last week on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. "I believe that he would have a strong interest in working with Derek Carr and getting Derek Carr to the next level. I believe he could help him out tremendously and help him become the Hall-of-Fame-type quarterback that young kid can be."