The idea that Derek Carr can become a Hall of Famer with the New York Jets is not so farfetched
Let’s play a little game: I’m going to give you quarterback numbers for a quarterback who played in the 21st century, and you’ll tell me if he’s a potential Hall of Famer or not.
Here are the numbers: 60.3% career completion rate, 57,023 yards, 366 TD, 244 INT (3:2 TD:INT ratio), 7.0 yards per attempt, 3.0% interception rate, 241.6 yards per game, 84.1 QB rating, four Pro Bowls, and zero All-Pros.
To make it a little easier, let’s compare the numbers of Matt Ryan, a player who’s certainly been an above-average quarterback throughout his career but would win few votes for the Hall of Fame: 65.6% completion rate, 62,792 yards, 381 TD, 183 INT, 7.4 yards per attempt, 2.2% interception rate, 268.3 yards per game, 93.6 QB rating, four Pro Bowls, 1 first-team All-Pro, Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1 MVP, and 1 Offensive Player of the Year award.
Who’s more decorated? Matt Ryan’s cumulative stats are objectively better than Eli Manning’s, the quarterback who owns the first stats. Yes, Eli’s career began four years prior to Ryan’s, which gave Ryan the benefit of extra seasons as the league progressed toward a passing league. But even by efficiency metrics and accolades, Ryan has been a superior QB to Eli.
Yet when Manning’s name is up for Hall of Fame conversation, there is little doubt that he will get in.
He won two rings in New York.
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Perhaps Phil Simms will object and claim that he also did, but the defense and running game won those championships (plus Simms did not lead the Giants to the Super Bowl in 1990; it was Jeff Hostetler at the helm after Simms broke his leg toward the end of the season).
Ultimately, bringing rings to New York makes waves like nothing else. Bringing a ring to the Jets? It’s considered so unthinkable since the Curse of Broadway Joe that it’s practically a one-way enshrinement ticket for Canton.
Yes, this is an exaggeration of sorts. After all, Matthew Stafford’s ring in Los Angeles did not elevate him to Hall of Fame status, and I don’t know if Ryan would have proponents even had his team not blown a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl.
However, it’s not hyperbolic to say that rings do something major for a quarterback’s legacy. And that’s what winning a ring with the New York Jets could do for Derek Carr if he does end up in Green and White.
Can he win one?
Is Derek Carr a top-five quarterback in the NFL? No. Does he have the high-end potential that Aaron Rodgers does? No.
But if Matthew Stafford won a ring in Los Angeles, Derek Carr can win a ring in New York.
It’s easy to point to players like Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey and say that the Jets don’t have that kind of high-end talent. First of all, they have reasonable facsimiles in Garrett Wilson, Quinnen Williams, and Sauce Gardner, players who may be younger and have less time with elite status but can also take over a game.
But more than that, the Jets have a deeper talent pool at many positions than the 2021 Rams did. They have better lower-end receivers, better tight ends, far superior running backs, better defensive line depth, and better secondary corners. They (hopefully) won’t be starting a safety who comes out of retirement.
In fact, the biggest difference between a Jets team that signs Carr today and the 2021 Rams would be the offensive line, specifically left tackle when compared to Andrew Whitworth.
Obviously, the best way to compete for a ring in the NFL is to have a Patrick Mahomes. But short of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL, most competitive teams are dealing with some version of Derek Carr: good quarterbacks who can look very good or even great with the right system and weapons. Stafford, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Kyler Murray, Jared Goff, and even Ryan Tannehill fall into that category.
Manning won rings not because he was a top-five QB, or even a top-10 one. In fact, he never finished in the top-five in quarterback DVOA in his career and finished in the top 10 only three times in 15 starting seasons. He was 27th out of 38 QBs in the metric in his 2007 Super Bowl-winning season.
Manning won Super Bowls because he was on the right team at the right time. The Giants executed good game plans against superior opponents, playing time-of-possession battles that largely resulted in low-scoring slugfests. They had several players overachieve in the playoffs, most notably cornerback Corey Webster in 2007.
And yes, Manning didn’t turn the ball over (he had a combined two interceptions in those eight playoff games in 2007 and 2011). He also got his chance to execute a game-winning drive in two Super Bowls, and he went 2-for-2 with two of the most iconic plays in NFL history. One of them can be attributed far more to luck and a receiver’s adrenaline than his own skill (as Tom Coughlin admitted, if you throw the ball high down the middle of the field, nothing good can happen), while the other is perhaps the greatest throw-and-catch in a clutch moment in league history.
Ironically, Carr is already neck-and-neck with Manning in two key clutchness metrics despite having started for six fewer seasons. Per Pro Football Reference, Manning had 27 fourth-quarter comebacks and 37 game-winning drives in his career. Carr has 28 and 33, respectively.
Furthermore, Carr has three top-10 finishes in quarterback DVOA and one just outside it (11th in 2021).
Carr is by no means an elite quarterback, but he’s been an above-average one for most of his career. You can win a Super Bowl with Carr if you have the right pieces around him.
QBs and Super Bowls
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have claimed six of the last 10 Super Bowl titles, which supports the narrative that you need an elite quarterback to win a ring.
However, the other four titles were won by a second-year Russell Wilson on the strength of the Legion of Boom, the ghost of Peyton Manning carried to the finish line by the No-Fly Zone, backup Nick Foles on the back of an elite offensive system, and Matthew Stafford backed up primarily by a stifling pass rush.
It’s not as impossible as it seems to win a ring without an elite quarterback. It’s obviously difficult in the AFC, especially when you have to contend with Josh Allen twice every year and likely some combination of Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, and Lamar Jackson.
Still, Carr played Mahomes very tough over the last few seasons despite the clear superiority of the Chiefs’ roster. He has a tendency to rise to the occasion. He’s only had one playoff game to work with so far, just as Stafford had before he was traded to the Lions.
There’s another similarity that Eli has to Carr: he was also not a good cold-weather QB despite having played his entire career with the Giants. When the game started at 40 degrees or below in his career, Eli had a 52% completion rate with 48 TDs and 44 INTs, although he did have a 19-17 career record in such games (regular and postseason, per the nflfastR database).
Somehow, Manning managed to win two high-stakes road playoff games in Green Bay, including one with a wind chill of -23 degrees.
Ultimately, Carr has a golden opportunity if he does come to the Jets. He does seem to favor coming to New York, which means that the ball is in the Jets’ court. If they decide Carr is the guy, there’s a model for him to follow to Big Apple immortality.
I agree that there are time when a QB and the team are best served by leading a team with solid talent to a championship rather than playing hero ball. Even look at Tom Brady; how many memorable throws did he make in Super Bowls? I remember only 1: the Julian Edelman catch. Yet his skills as a leader and keeping his team focused on chipping away at leads and overcoming obstacles cannot be minimized.
I agree Eli was not an elite QB, but I think this article does not give Eli enough credit for being a clutch QB. He had good football instincts and demonstrated them time after time. And if you break down the helmet catch, he broke away from a potential sack, eluded other defenders, identified a receiver and threw the ball where only his receiver could catch the ball. The play was nothing short of amazing. I do agree that some luck was involved. If that play was replayed 10 times it would have worked only once, maybe twice.