KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a different universe, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr might take the field Thursday night in red and gold instead instead of silver and black. The third-year quarterback said the Kansas City Chiefs showed interest in him during the 2014 draft, when the Raiders selected him in the second round.
“They did a little bit,” Carr said. “They were just getting Alex (Smith) and I remember the coaching staff telling me that they really liked me.”
The Chiefs and Raiders share a rich history, but the rivalry burned over a low flame until the arrival of Carr in Oakland. The third-year quarterback holds an MVP resume through the first 12 games of the season. His team stands 10-2 in first place of the AFC West, and his 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions illustrate his ability to score points while protecting the football.
That play earns the respect of Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
“He’s fearless with his throws, he can make all of them and he loves the game,” Reid said.
Carr entered the league with an impressive college record but with close comparisons to his brother, David Carr. The Houston Texans selected David with the No. 1 pick overall of the 2002 NFL draft, and the first selection in franchise history.
But the elder Carr failed to live up to the sky-high expectations. Derek owns more touchdown passes in fewer than three full seasons in the league than his brother compiled over parts of 10 NFL seasons.
Derek entered the league with less hype, but quickly won over all doubters. He secured the starting job as in his rookie season, and turned the Raiders from 3-13 as a rookie to AFC contenders in just two seasons.
But despite his accomplishments, the Chiefs prove the one mystery Carr struggles to solve. Carr holds a 1-4 record as starter against Kansas City. His passer rating in those five games stands at 72.0, his lowest against any team he faced more than once.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson said the key to stopping Carr rests with preventing him from making big plays downfield.
“He’s making smart decisions with the ball,” Johnson said. “He’s very aggressive. He’s not safe with the ball, he’s very aggressive. He makes good decisions and he’s a gutsy guy.”
Despite that record, or perhaps because of it, Carr and Reid share a high degree of respect for one another.
“I think he’s real,” Reid said. “He’s putting years together here now. That’s important at that position.”
Reid and Carr connected following last season when the Chiefs coaching staff coached the Pro Bowl with Carr on the quarterback roster.
“I know he loves the game, and he’s passionate about learning,” Reid said. “He loves to talk football.”
Carr said he watched Reid teach during Pro Bowl week and saw the bond between Reid and tight end Travis Kelce, who was also a member of the team.
“I think he’s one of the best in this league, so it was a joy to be around him and their staff, to be honest,” Carr said. “They’re great people even though obviously we don’t like each other during the season.”
Reid said Carr proved a strong pupil.
“He was interested in whatever you could share with him — being a Raider,” Reid joked.
Carr’s career as a Raider may always share a connection to Kansas City, and back to the draft when he could have become a Chief.
Kansas City owned the 23rd pick of the draft, and some speculation connected the team with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Cleveland Browns traded up to select Manizel immediately in front of the Chiefs. The team then chose Auburn linebacker Dee Ford.
The Raiders selected Carr 13 picks later before the Chiefs had another shot.
“They told me, obviously, if they didn’t have Alex, and things like that,” Carr said about his conversation with Reid, “and that he really liked me and thought about getting me. So, I thought that was pretty cool.”