Raiders owner Mark Davis says frequent coaching changes affected Derek Carr

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

PHOENIX -- Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis spoke Monday at the NFL owners' meetings about the organization's decision to move on from longtime starting quarterback Derek Carr, saying constant change in the team's head coach played a big part in Carr's relative lack of on-field success.

Davis, on the six-year anniversary of the Raiders winning the vote to move from Oakland to Southern Nevada, said he shouldered the responsibility.

"Derek did a hell of a job, but throughout the process, he went through [six] different coaches so he never had a consistency to the head coaching part of the thing, nor to his coordinator part," Davis said. "But he gave us everything he had for nine years.

"The only consistency for the last 11 years has been me, in this organization, so the buck stops with me. And I think that if you're going to look at anybody that has failed, obviously, it's me at putting leadership together and putting a team on the field. The only thing I can do is try to get better at it. As I've always said, the one thing I know is what I don't know and I'm going to hire people that I believe are capable of doing it and give them a vision and goals and I'm going to let them do the job. I will play devil's advocate and I will get in conversations, but again, I just believe that, in my position, I have to rely on the people that I hire."

Since taking over the team in the wake of the death of his father, Al Davis, in 2011, the Raiders have had Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, interim Tony Sparano, Jack Del Rio, Jon Gruden, interim Rich Bisaccia and Josh McDaniels as the head coach.

The Raiders are a combined 76-113 overall, 0-2 in the playoffs, since the elder Davis' death. Carr, meanwhile, was 63-79 as the Raiders starter.

Davis blamed poor drafting -- saying they have had only one good draft, the 2014 draft that yielded Carr and edge rusher Khalil Mack -- under his watch. Davis did say, though, he "gave" Carr "two of the best offensive minds in football" in Gruden and McDaniels.

The decision by McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler to move on from Carr did not surprise Davis, though.

"The surprise was they were the first ones to come to that conclusion," Davis said. "Everybody loved Derek... Jon loved him. Obviously, we didn't make a move to get Tom Brady back in '20."

Davis said he told every coach he hired that no one on the roster was "untouchable" and that he left football decisions up to the coaches, though he acknowledged he had to "sign off" on the move without getting in the way of the decision.

"I don't want to denigrate Derek but I don't believe he's the GOAT of professional football," Davis said. "I think he's a great quarterback, he's a hard worker, he's a good leader, all of those things. But if I were to get in the way of the coach's decision-making, accountability, then, goes out the window because now they're pointing fingers if things don't go right."

In new quarterbackJimmy Garoppolo, who signed a three-year, $72.75 million free-agent contract on March 17 after Carr was released on Feb. 14, Davis said he has been a fan for a while and was not happy to see him go to the Bay Area rival San Francisco 49ers in 2017.

Garoppolo had been with the New England Patriots since being drafted there in 2014, with McDaniels his offensive coordinator and Brady the starter.

"What I've known about Jimmy is he's a winner," Davis said. "Everywhere he's played, he's won. I know that he sat on the bench behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time [in Tom Brady], learned a lot there, worked with Josh McDaniels, who I think is one of the great offensive minds in football. So, I think his upbringing, he learned how to be a great quarterback."

Garoppolo has a career record of 40-17, 5-2 in the postseason with a Super Bowl appearance.

"I knew he was going to bring something to [the 49ers]," Davis said, "and he proved it."

The NFL owners' meetings this week came after a weekend in which Davis took in both Taylor Swift concerts at Allegiant Stadium, an NCAA tournament game between Connecticut and Arkansas at T-Mobile Arena and a prize fight between super middleweights David Benavidez and Caleb Plant at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But here at the meetings at the Arizona Biltmore, Davis also spoke of the notion that Ziegler and McDaniels were turning the Raiders into the so-called Patriots West.

"That's not even close to the case," Davis said. "The fact that they're signing certain guys from New England, any new coach or GM is going to go with comfortable people that know their system to help assimilate the rest of the team into what they're thinking, or process is."

In fact, McDaniels said earlier in the day that the addition of Garoppolo should not influence if they draft a quarterback at No. 7 overall.

"If we feel like the guy's worth it, I think we would do it," he said.

And that's fine with Davis, who reiterated he leaves football decisions to his coaches.

"I lived with somebody that lived football, 25/8, and really knew the game," Davis said of his late father. "So I know how limited my knowledge is of the game. And I know how hard it is to become a coach and become somebody and how you have to love it every single minute of your life.

"If I hire correctly, things are going to go well. But beyond coaching, you have to have f---ing players. You just do. And that's one of the places we've failed for quite a while."

Davis also addressed "reports" that he was upset that visiting fans were regularly taking over Allegiant Stadium and said he never asked to have a fan removed from a game.

"I never said anything about being pissed at the fans or embarrassed by the fans," he said. "At all. I'm a freaking fan and I understood the fact that they were going to sell their tickets, or whatever. It's our f---ing fault that we haven't been winning and giving them a product that they all want to be in that stadium for, and I want that to be clear to people.

"It's 'reports say Mark Davis said this.' I've never been quoted saying that and it pisses me off that the fan base is getting that false narrative."

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