Where does Derek Carr fit among the greatest Raiders quarterbacks?
You don’t make it to five Super Bowls without good quarterback play and the Raiders have had a storied tradition at the quarterback position. From Oakland, to Los Angeles, back to Oakland and on to Vegas, no matter what city the Raiders have played it, they’ve had some very good quarterbacks.
The question remains: Who is the best?”
What follows is a list of the five best Raider quarterbacks of all time.
5. Derek Carr
Height: 6-2 Weight: 214
College: Fresno State
Raider career: 2014-present
Jersey number: # 4
How acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (36th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft
Awards: 2 Pro Bowls (2015-2016).
This might be the most controversial selection to put on this list because Carr is 22-25 as a starter and he is only entering his fourth year with the Raiders. Digging through the rest of the Raiders quarterbacks one finds oneself quickly frustrated but Derek is somebody special and Raider fans around the world have only begun to embrace him as the next great signal caller in franchise history.
When looking at Derek as a player, one thinks that God took the accuracy and leadership of Stabler, the personality of Plunkett, some of the statistical dominance of Lamonica, the ability in the clutch of George Blanda and the work ethic of Gannon and molded them into one quarterback. Carr possesses all the great qualities that those guys had in spades.
Statistics could easily illustrate Carr’s ascension from intriguing prospect to bona fide star but that has been overdone on other blogs and websites. Derek Carr leads by example, when interviewed he looks into the eyes of the person he is talking too and that even includes postgame interviews after a Raider loss. He is quick to admit his mistakes and he works tirelessly to fix those errors. That doesn’t mean that his predecessors or the other guys on this list didn’t do that but Carr rivals Gannon with the ability to do. The ability to admit errors, move on from those errors through hard work is a rare find in professional athletes. Kenny Stabler later admitted that he didn’t watch film and he sometimes would read the game plan on game day. Although you could never do that in the NFL today and be as great of a player as Stabler was and Derek Carr knows that. Already, Carr has 24 game-winning drives and 4th quarter comebacks under his belt, which is fourth best in franchise history and just 11 away from trying Ken Stabler.
I honestly will not be surprised if Carr continues this ascension, if he ends up reaching the lofty heights of Aaron Rodgers, Payton Manning and Tom Brady, than I have no doubt that he will rank number one on this list.
4: Daryle Lamonica
Height: 6-3 Weight: 218
College: Notre Dame
Raider career: 1967-1974
Jersey number: # 3
How acquired: Trade with Buffalo (1967)
Awards: AFL MVP (1967, 1969), 4 AFL/NFL Pro Bowls ( 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972), First Team All-AFL 1967 and 1969.
Lamonica fits ever physical attribute that Al Davis loved in a quarterback. Nicknamed “The Mad Bomber” due to his affinity for throwing the long pass in virtually any situation, Lamonica was a very dangerous quarterback indeed.
He took the Oakland Raiders to an AFL title in 1967 before losing Super Bowl II. Moreover, he guided the Raiders to four straight AFL/AFC Championship Games (1967-1970) which was a feat unmatched in franchise history until Ken Stabler showed up. Daryle led the NFL in touchdown passes twice and he finished his stint in silver and black with a 62-16-6 record as a starter. Although fans debate the importance of a quarterbacks record as a starter because of all the variables involved, there is no doubt that no Raider quarterback will end his career with that record or the 78.4% winning percentage that goes with it.
In 1969, he threw for 34 touchdowns and more than 3,300 yards. On October 19, 1969, against the Buffalo Bills, Lamonica set a new record with 6 touchdown passes in the first half, a record that has been matched only once, by Aaron Rodgers against the Chicago Bears in 2014. Eat your heart out Tom Brady.
Lamonica falls to fourth on this list because unlike the men who rank ahead of him, Lamonica had a hard time both reading and throwing against zone defenses. As the 1970s dawned in the NFL, the league was using more zone defenses and less man-to-man coverage schemes. These deficiencies helped contribute to Lamonica barely completing half of his career passes in Oakland. In 1973, he was replaced by Ken Stabler, despite Snake’s weaker arm and status as a benchwarmer since 1969. Pulling a veteran quarterback like that, who had won plenty of accolades, for an unproven starter says a lot about Lamonica’s weaknesses.
3: Rich Gannon
Height: 6-3 Weight: 210
Raider career: 1999-2004
Jersey number: # 12
How acquired: Free Agency (1999)
Awards: NFL MVP (2002), 4 Pro Bowls (1999-2002), First Team All-Pro in 2000 & 2002.
He won the NFL MVP in 2002, but Gannon sadly might always be remembered for the terrible Super Bowl performance that season. That is sad because statistically speaking, Gannon’s 2002 regular season performance was and is the best ever by any Raiders quarterback.
Rich brought stability to a franchise that was quickly sliding down the slippery slope of mediocrity to the NFL’s basement in the late 1990s. The struggles that the Raiders later had after Gannon retired would have happened much sooner had Gannon not stepped in as a team leader and as a consistent force at quarterback. Trust me; I watched those Raider teams, with struggling quarterbacks like Jay Schroeder, Todd Marinovich, Jeff Hostetler, and Jeff George.
In six years with the Raiders, he won 45 of his 71 starts, and Oakland was in the playoffs three straight seasons (2000-02)—something that hasn’t happened since Gannon was the QB. He threw more touchdowns than Plunkett (114 to Plunkett’s 80) and his completion percentage is a franchise best 62.6 percent (Derek Carr and Carson Palmer trail Gannon with 60.9%)
Of all the Raider primary starting quarterbacks he was the best at protecting the football. Gannon threw only 50 interceptions versus Plunkett’s 81, Snake’s 143 and Lamonica’s 115). Protecting the football is critical in an era and Gannon was the Raiders best ever at avoiding turnovers.
Finally, Gannon is the most mobile quarterback in franchise history. He leads all Raider quarterbacks in rushing and his savvy use of his mobility was critical in many of his victories as a starter.
2: Jim Plunkett
Height: 6-3 Weight: 220
Raider career: 1978-1986
Jersey number: # 16
How acquired: Free Agent (1978)
Awards: NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1980) Super Bowl XV MVP
Fans might argue that Plunkett deserves to be #1 on this list because he won two Super Bowls in four seasons and that he brought stability to a team that had just lost Kenny Stabler via trade to Houston. In reality, Plunkett’s career in Oakland and L.A. is littered with injuries, inconsistency and the teams seemingly consistent desire to make someone else their primary starter.
Plunkett’s 1980 season cannot be ignored and his success that year cannot be denied but if you really think about it he saved two Raider teams (1980 and 1983) by leading them to Super Bowl victories.
Statistically speaking, Stabler and Plunkett are more alike than they are different. For example, Plunkett’s QB Rating was 75.7 versus Snake’s 80.2 and their completion percentages are also comparable (Plunkett completed 56.7 versus Snake’s 59.9). However, Snake played in more games, won 31 more games as a starter and he threw more touchdown passes than Plunkett.
Ultimately, Plunkett is #2 on this list because of longevity and due to the fact that Snake was a franchise quarterback versus Plunkett’s more journeyman status. Evidence of this is clear. Plunkett isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Snake is so that gives Kenny Stabler the edge. Moreover, Plunkett never had a Pro Bowl caliber performance during a season and that was back in the day when fans didn’t vote for you so popularity didn’t count. Snake went to four Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro in 1974. Sadly, Jim Plunkett never achieved those lofty heights.
If you are still in doubt it might come down to what you value more, a Hall of Fame induction for Stabler or the extra Super Bowl ring that Plunkett possesses. I guess that decision is up to you but I know where I stand.
That doesn’t mean that Jim Plunkett was bad. After all, he won two thirds of his starts with the Silver & Black, and while his star shone only for a short while in the NFL, it shined brighter than many of the journeymen quarterbacks that the NFL has had since 1920.
1: Ken Stabler
Height: 6-0 Weight: 190
Raider career: 1966-1971
Jersey number: # 12
How acquired: Undrafted, signed as a free agent
Awards: NFL MVP 1974
Snake gets the number one spot and it is not because he had a cool nickname. Snake was just cool.
Sure, Ken Stabler guided the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory but the reasoning behind his status as the number one quarterback in Oakland history is unquestioned.
First, he is still the franchise leader in touchdown passes, passing yards, and pass attempts. Keep in mind that Snake last snap as a Raider took place on December 16, 1979. Snake also held the Raider franchise record for completions until Rich Gannon broke it in the early 2000s. Moreover, his 3,615 yards passing in 1979 stood as a franchise mark for nearly twenty years.
Even more dominating was the fact that Snake was the only quarterback, in either conference, since 1970 to lead his team to five straight conference championship games until Tom Brady tied the record in 2015 and broke it in 2016.
So how good were the guys before and after him at the position? They definitely weren’t as good statistically.
Second, Snake is probably one of the most underrated QBs in NFL history. All he did was win and win he could. He led the NFL in passing percentage twice and in touchdown passes twice. Back in the 1970s that was not a common thing and his 103.4 quarterback rating in ’76 was the highest in history up to that point.
Third, Snake called his own plays and even though the same could be said for Lamonica, Blanda and Plunkett, nobody was crafter than the Snake.
Some fans have argumentative point if they feel that Stabler should be ranked much lower on this list. Snake threw a lot of interceptions (143) and he lost four of his five AFC Championship Game appearances. However, there was more to Snake than “just win baby”. As Tom Hanks later put it, “Kenny Stabler, QB for the Oakland Raiders, who showed how cool it was to be cool under pressure,”
If I could resurrect all the Raider quarterbacks in franchise history the one guy that I would want to lead the Raiders would be Ken Stabler. Today, he would be as dominant as Tom Brady ever has been and that is one bold statement to make because in his day he was just as dominant and he didn’t deflate footballs.
George Blanda: 1967-1975): Blanda is an NFL legend, but in nine seasons with the Raiders, he started just one game at QB. What grants him this honorable mention is that he threw 23 TD passes in just 235 regular-season passing attempts with Oakland, and almost all of them involved bringing the Raiders back from a deficit to win as the backup quarterback. He even is one of three Raiders to ever win a NFL MVP Award and he did it without starting a game at QB.