Matthew Stafford’s journey from Detroit to Los Angeles is reminiscent of Derek Carr’s potential path from the Raiders to the New York Jets
One of the biggest knocks on Derek Carr is that he isn’t a good enough quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Carr is coming off arguably his worst season since his rookie year and will soon be 32 years old. First-year head coach Josh McDaniels had seen enough as the Las Vegas Raiders benched him while still in playoff contention.
While Carr did struggle in 2022, I don’t believe he’s done just yet.
I also believe the Jets can win the Super Bowl with Carr.
In the last 12 years, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Nick Foles have won a Super Bowl and were named Super Bowl MVP. While Manning and Flacco were longtime starters, neither was ever truly elite. Foles is a career backup.
But no championship-winning team provides a better model for the potential Carr-Jets marriage than the 2021 Los Angeles Rams, led by Matthew Stafford.
The Rams’ roster and coaching were good enough to make the Super Bowl in 2018 but poor quarterback play from Jared Goff limited the team to only 3 points in a loss to New England. After that, they missed playoffs in 2019 and lost in the divisional round in 2020.
With their stars aging out, the Rams needed to make a splash.
The Rams traded Goff and two first-round picks (which would become the 32nd pick in 2022 and the 6th overall pick in 2023) for 32-year-old Matthew Stafford.
It worked as hoped. Stafford had perhaps his best season and won the Super Bowl.
If Carr joins the Jets, it would be a similar situation to when Stafford joined the Rams. Like Carr, Stafford had spent all of his career with one franchise and failed to win a playoff game while consistently playing like a good-but-not-elite quarterback.
Heading into 2023, Carr is viewed as a quarterback that could get the Jets to playoffs but isn’t good enough to contend for a Super Bowl. Stafford was viewed at the same level during his career in Detroit.
The Lions had failed to put a championship-caliber roster around Stafford, just like the Raiders with Carr. Once Stafford joined a team with a better roster around the quarterback, he proved that he was good enough to get over the top.
While the Jets’ roster isn’t yet at the level of the roster that Stafford joined in Los Angeles, I believe the gap between Carr and Stafford is smaller than many realize.
Derek Carr vs. Matthew Stafford
In 2022, Carr was 31 years old and in his ninth season in the NFL. During his final year with the Lions in 2020, Stafford was 32 and in his 12th season.
Looking at their final three seasons with their original teams, Carr and Stafford were playing at a very similar level prior to leaving. Here is how each performed in the three seasons before Stafford was traded and Carr was cut:
Derek Carr, 2020-22:
- 48 games (24-24 record)
- 12,429 yards
- 74 touchdowns
- 37 interceptions
- 65.7% completion percentage
- 7.6 yards per attempt
- 94.0 passer rating
Matthew Stafford, 2018-20:
- 40 games played (14-25-1 record)
- 10,360 yards
- 66 touchdowns
- 26 interceptions
- 65.0% completion percentage
- 7.5 yards per attempt
- 95.8 passer rating
When we break it down on a per-game basis, here is where they stand:
Yards per game:
- Derek Carr: 258.9
- Matthew Stafford: 259.0
Touchdowns per game:
- Derek Carr: 1.5
- Matthew Stafford: 1.7
Interceptions per game:
- Derek Carr: 0.8
- Matthew Stafford: 0.7
Overall, it’s very close.
Considering the Rams had to trade two first-round picks and sign Stafford to a four-year, $160 million dollar deal while Carr will require no draft picks and likely sign for less money, signing Carr in free agency feels like a steal in comparison to Stafford.
Derek Carr can be good enough. But are the Jets?
It is possible for the Jets to win a Super Bowl with Derek Carr. But considering seven of the last nine Super Bowl winners were led by Tom Brady (4), Patrick Mahomes (2), and Peyton Manning (1), it’s certainly much more difficult without an elite quarterback.
The Jets would need a roster to the level of the 2021 Rams, 2017 Eagles, or the 2012 Ravens to win a Super Bowl with a non-elite quarterback. All three teams had elite coaches, offensive lines, and defenses that allowed their quarterbacks to stay within the structure of the offense.
As of right now, the Jets only have an elite defense. The offensive line is a work in progress and the jury is still out on the coaching staff.
Ultimately, the Jets’ roster isn’t at the level of the Rams’ roster prior to the Stafford trade. The Rams already had a proven top coach in Sean McVay and an established elite roster that was coming off four consecutive winning seasons. The strong support around Stafford allowed him to thrive. The Jets have good pieces, but they still haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, so their supporting cast cannot be considered as reliable as the one Stafford walked into.
If the Jets’ roster around the quarterback position does not improve off where it was in 2022, they are unlikely to win a Super Bowl in 2023 without elite quarterback play. However, signing Carr instead of trading for a potentially elite quarterback, like Aaron Rodgers, allows the Jets to retain their draft capital to further build the roster. This gives the Jets a chance to build their roster up to the 2021 Rams level that is necessary to win a Super Bowl with a quarterback of Carr’s caliber.
In the end, the Jets’ Carr-Rodgers decision comes down to whether the Jets believe Rodgers is enough to win a Super Bowl with their current roster. If they think he is, the Jets shouldn’t hesitate to make him their first priority. It’s been over 50 years since the Jets have won a Super Bowl and they should maximize their current window if they believe it is open.
If they think Rodgers on his own is not enough to win a Super Bowl with the current roster, the Jets would be better off keeping their picks, signing Carr, and strengthening the team around him as they aim to win a championship in the same way the Rams did with Stafford.