There’s been a lot of talk about Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his ability (or inability) to play well in cold weather. Coach Jon Gruden said it best in a press conference, “I think everyone struggles to a degree in cold weather“.
The question is, to what degree does Carr struggle? Instead of just looking at his small sample size of “45 degrees or colder”, I decided to assess and compare his production from a month-to-month perspective.
Let’s check it out . . .
21 Games, 68.08% completions, 7.12 pass yards per attempt, 247.5 pass yards per game, 1.77 TD/INT ratio, 92.8 QB rating
21 Games, 65.83% completions, 7.25 pass yards per attempt, 260.8 pass yards per game, 3.45 TD/INT ratio, 97.9 QB rating
24 Games, 62.42% completions, 6.85 pass yards per attempt, 235.4 pass yards per game, 2.26 TD/INT ratio, 88.8 QB rating
23 Games, 59.22% completions, 6.15 pass yards per attempt, 220.2 pass yards per game, 1.94 TD/INT ratio, 81.8 QB rating
*1 Game, 63.64% completions, 5.88 pass yards per attempt, 194.0 pass yards per game, 1.00 TD/INT ratio, 77.1 QB rating
Since there was only one game played in January, let’s just exclude that from the discussion. By the numbers, it’s clear that Carr’s production peaks in October and starts to decline after that. In December, his completion percentage, pass yards per attempt, pass yards per game and QB rating are all worse than any other month.
If you single out Carr’s best season, his 2016 MVP candidate campaign, it has a similar trend: highest QB rating in October (102.0), lowest in December (84.9).
Such can be true with other quarterbacks, even great ones. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers both post their lowest quarterback rating for the regular season in the month of December, but their drop off is not nearly as severe as Carr’s. Obviously, they’re two of the greatest QB’s to ever play the game, but I’m just trying to be fair and state that even the very best aren’t at their best as the weather gets colder.
Okay, so Carr hasn’t been as good after October, as his numbers usually dip after Halloween. I decided to dig deeper to try and pinpoint a trend within that trend, so to speak. I landed on a home versus away comparison in games played during the month of December . . .
HOME: 12 Games, 62.81% completions, 6.82 pass yards per attempt, 246.3 pass yards per game, 3.83 TD/INT ratio
ROAD: 13 Games, 55.87% completions, 5.38 pass yards per attempt, 186.9 pass yards per game, 0.84 TD/INT ratio
Per Pro Football Reference, the eight lowest QB rating performances of Carr’s career took place on the road. Five of those eight were played during the month of December.
I won’t blame Carr for all of this (football is a team sport), but it’s clear that he has struggled on the road late in the season. As a matter of fact, in those 13 December road games, Carr eclipsed a 90.0 QB rating just once (91.8) and that game was played in L.A. against the Chargers.
Some defense/context: Carr is sacked more in December than any other month, 2.21 times per game to be exact. To nobody’s surprise, he’s sacked just 1.47 times per game in October. As the season goes on, offensive linemen tend to have some injuries due to the physicality that they put their body through. So, that is a factor beyond the temperature or the location that could be attributed to the dip in production. Not sure it explains why it’s so much worse on the road, but maybe some inexperienced linemen struggle with pass protection communication in the crowd noise? Feels like I’m grasping at straws here.
Please keep in mind, I do understand that his most recent game in December was the dreadful loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and I’m not here to give excuses. Even though he was sacked twice in that game, I don’t think he was under extreme duress to the point where it excused some of his poor throws and interceptions.
My point is this: Derek Carr needs to play better down the stretch of the season, specifically on the road in December. His team needs him at his best this time of year if they plan on being a consistent contender as they move into the future. TO BE CLEAR: This doesn’t mean Carr can’t or won’t ball out over the final four games in 2019 and help lead the Raiders to the playoffs.
It just means he has an in-season regression tendency that he needs to figure out.