Josh McDaniels spent the past 11 seasons waiting for the right opportunity to return to the head coach position. That wait, which included a last-minute back-out with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, served as a quest to revitalize McDaniels’ image and show his growth as a leader.
More than a decade removed from his disastrous two-year tenure with the Denver Broncos, McDaniels has returned to the top of the totem pole with the Las Vegas Raiders.
And Tuesday, McDaniels and his new organization showed a positive sign that things will be different this time around, as they locked in franchise QB Derek Carr to a three-year contract extension.
Raiders are all-in on Derek Carr after contract extension
The Raiders are now all-in on Carr, the team’s longtime franchise QB. After dealing with constant trade rumors under Jon Gruden, Carr’s three-year, $121.5 million contract extension, as confirmed by Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson, will solidify him in Las Vegas for the foreseeable future.
The deal will also shine a light on how this head coaching tenure — at least in the early going — will be different than McDaniels’ previous stint in Denver.
In 2009, when Denver hired McDaniels, then 32, his first move was to trade established franchise QB Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears. McDaniels wanted to rebuild the team in his image, even if that meant going through growing pains with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow at the position. At the time, the move seemed misguided. And inevitably, that notion was correct as the Broncos struggled under McDaniels.
In a lot of ways, the Cutler trade serves as a lasting memory of McDaniels’ failed tenure. It highlighted his youthful arrogance, impatience, and overall talent evaluation skills. McDaniels was put in charge of the roster, and his overarching leadership ended up leading to his demise in Denver.
Now, in Las Vegas, he has GM Dave Ziegler by his side as a tag team partner. They’ve inherited a playoff team that became available because of off-the-field circumstances.
McDaniels can focus on coaching — what he does best — while Ziegler can aid him in the roster-building process. And in a significant sign of maturation, the duo’s first order of business with the Raiders was not to subtract but to add to the base already established by the previous regime.
Building over tearing down
Last month, the team completed a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers to bring in Carr’s best bud, All-Pro wideout Davante Adams, which established the leadership group’s desire to keep the QB happy and in-house. They then re-signed ascending edge rusher Maxx Crosby to a massive contract extension and brought in perennial Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones to complement him.
Finally, the Raiders put the cherry on top of the cake by agreeing to Carr’s new deal, which gives McDaniels’ roster and team a foundation for the future.
McDaniels isn’t reaching for the stars or trying to fix something that isn’t broken. He has been humbled to the point that he can differentiate the necessities of the roster situation and determine that what’s in place isn’t such a bad inheritance after all.
McDaniels’ maturation will cause the Raiders to sink or swim
It’s been a while since McDaniels has led a franchise. He underwent a decade-long refresher in the Bill Belichick system, worked with QBs other than Tom Brady, and had success as a play-caller. His work with then-rookie Mac Jones last year was the ultimate feather in his cap, showing his ability to adapt his offense to his QB. It also showed McDaniels’ ability to develop the NFL’s paramount position.
Instead of using that experience to harbor his hubris, McDaniels has taken the steady and patient approach with Carr, who is a solidified franchise QB in the NFL. Carr, who just turned 31 last month, has thrown for 31,700 yards, 193 touchdowns, and 85 interceptions during his eight-year career. He’s also led the Raiders to two playoff appearances, including last season’s improbably postseason berth following Gruden’s firing.
Presumably, McDaniels realized that the Raiders can contend now, mainly because of Carr. The front office’s actions solidify that thinking. Now, McDaniels has every opportunity to succeed from the jump. Having the ability to understand that is a sign of maturation by McDaniels.
Ultimately, the Raiders will sink or swim with McDaniels because of how he does things differently than during his time with the Broncos. So far, as seen with the Raiders’ work this offseason, he is off to a solid start in his second stint.