Since even before Derek Carr ever took his first snap in a regular-season game, the Raiders quarterback has been the target of skeptics.
Every NFL team passed on him in the first round of the 2014 draft, and he’s had to weather constant change in the organization since becoming a starter that year as a second-round pick. Some analysts have questioned his leadership and his performance.
Since Jon Gruden became head coach in 2018, many reporters have wondered if Gruden really believes in Carr as his franchise quarterback.
Paul Gutierrez, who covers the Raiders for ESPN.com, even noted before the season opener that Carr faces a "prove-it" season in 2019.
But Gruden has stayed with Carr. And, in the regular-season opener Monday night in Denver, Carr looked like the player he was in 2016, when he led Oakland to the playoffs and a 12-4 record.
Against the Broncos, Carr was 22-of-26 for 259 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, took no sacks and had a marvelous quarterback rating of 121.0.
Plus, Gruden came away with even more faith in his quarterback after Carr made a play late in the game to lock up the victory.
Gruden told Michael Silver of NFL.com this week that late in the game, when the Raiders needed a first down to kill the Broncos’ hopes, he called a running play – but Carr asked to throw a screen instead.
Gruden said yes. Then Carr completed the pass to Tyrell Williams, who gained enough for a first down so the Raiders could run out the clock on Denver and secure a 24-16 victory.
"I like that he did that," Gruden told Silver. "(It was) 'Put the game in my hands.' And you listen to a good quarterback."
Carr had a slow start to the 2018 season, having to learn a new system and adapt to Gruden. But he came on stronger in the second half and said he was eager to get off to a good start in 2019 and be much more effective. He said in the opener in Denver, he was "a man on a mission."
He has a re-made offensive line, an upgrade of the wide receiver corps, an every-down running back in rookie Josh Jacobs and a better defense, so he knows the Raiders have a chance to be much better than the 4-12 record they had a year ago.
"I have been ready to go for a while," he told Silver. "And I know we have a really good team this year, and I couldn’t wait to get out there. So, not angry, just ready and really focused. I’m on a mission. The job is not done."
The analytic website Pro Football Focus gave Carr its highest grade among all NFL quarterbacks in Week 1.
The challenge for Carr seems greater this Sunday, however, against the rival Kansas City Chiefs, who also are 1-0 and have a high-powered offense with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Oddsmakers have made the Chiefs seven-point favorites.