The NFL Draft is an event of hope and optimism, a struggling team can turn into perennial Super Bowl favorites in the online sportsbook, and it all starts with the quarterback. The NFL QB might be the most challenging position in sports. Teams will try for years to draft a franchise quarterback. Sometimes it comes in the first round, or even in the sixth round, in the case of Tom Brady. In this series, we will look at the QB draft history of the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders in the 21st century and see how the pick’s career in the NFL turned out.
The now Las Vegas Raiders have been one of the worst NFL franchises of the 21st century. They had a great team in the early 2000s, but it never culminated in a Super Bowl celebration. Raiders owner Al Davis became notorious for his terrible football decisions, most notably, trading head coach Jon Gruden in 2002 and then losing to Gruden in Super Bowl XXXVII in a humiliating fashion. Since that Super Bowl loss, the Raiders have only had one winning season. As the team has searched for a franchise quarterback, the Raiders might have drafted the biggest bust in NFL history. Let’s take a look at the QBs drafted by the Raiders since 2000.
Marques Tuiasosopo (2001)
With an aging Rich Gannon as the Raiders’ starting QB, Oakland looked to the future by drafting Washington University QB Marques Tuiasosopo in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. The young quarterback was mainly an inactive third-string QB behind Gannon and Kerry Collins. His first significant playing time came against the Kansas City Chiefs in NFL Week 7 of the 2003 season. Tuiasosopo played well, throwing for 224 yards in the second half. That was enough to get the starting nod the following week against the Detroit Lions.
Tuiasosopo struggled in his first NFL start, throwing only 65 yards with an interception before leaving in the first half with an injury. He was placed on injured reserve and did not start another game until the 2005 NFL Season. The second and last start of his career came in NFL Week 14 against the New York Jets. Tuiasosopo passed for 124 yards and threw his first NFL touchdowns, as well as two interceptions in the 26-10 loss.
The former Huskies QB stayed with the Raiders through 2006 before signing a one-year contract with the Jets in 2007. He failed to make an appearance during the season and returned to the Raiders in 2008. Tuiasosopo received playing time in two more games but only threw two more passes in his final NFL season.
After he retired from the NFL, Tuiasosopo transitioned into coaching. He has held multiple coaching jobs at several different college teams. Tuiasosopo is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Rice University.
Andrew Walter (2005)
The then Oakland Raiders drafted Arizona State QB Andrew Walter in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season as the third-string QB behind Collins and Tuiasosopo. Walter competed for the starting job with Tuiasosopo and Aaron Brooks in 2006, but Brooks was named the NFL Week 1 starter. Walter took over the job after Brooks suffered a pectoral injury.
Starting eight games in 2006, Walter completed 53 percent of his passes for 1,677 yards with three touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The young QB went 2-6, with those two Ws being the only two wins for the Raiders in 2006. With a 2-14 record, Oakland secured the number one overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. With Oakland selecting a QB in the 2007 draft, Walter made only one more start in his NFL career.
In 2008, his last NFL start came against the Carolina Panthers. The Oakland QB completed only 43 percent of his passes for 143 yards and while throwing zero touchdowns and two INTs. He continued to be the backup quarterback for the Raiders until his release in 2009. Walter signed with the New England Patriots in August of that same year but was released before the NFL regular season started.
JaMarcus Russell (2007)
After a terrible 2006, the Raiders held the number one overall pick for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 1962. Like Roman Gabriel’s selection way back when, the Raiders decided to select a quarterback, going with LSU’s JaMarcus Russell. Alongside Ryan Leaf, Russell proved to be the biggest NFL draft bust in history.
Owner/GM Al Davis was mesmerized by Russell’s arm strength, ignoring significant red flags about his work ethic that were common knowledge among the NFL scouts and other teams. Russell held out of training camp due to contract negotiations and signed a six-year, $68 million deal during the first week of the 2007 NFL regular season. The rookie did not see action until late in the year, where he made four appearances and one start throwing for a total of 373 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Russell started 15 games in 2008 but only threw for 2,423 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Lane Kiffin began the season as Oakland’s head coach but was fired after a 1-3 start. Tom Cable took over the Raiders head coaching position and finished the NFL regular season with a 5-11 record. Oakland only averaged 16 points a game, which was the fourth-lowest in the NFL that year. There were even more doubts about the future of Russell’s NFL career.
2009 was Russell’s third and final year in the NFL, going 2-7 in his nine starts and completing less than 50 percent of his passes. In those nine games, he threw only three touchdowns while completing 11 passes to the other team. The Raiders cut him in 2010, and while Russell had discussions with other teams, they never materialized. The #1 overall pick was done after three years in the NFL.
Derek Carr (2014)
The Raiders might have been scared to draft another quarterback after the Russell debacle, as it took seven years for the team to look to the draft for their next franchise QB. Oakland appeared to find their man when they drafted Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The former Bulldog has turned out to be the best statistical quarterback in the Raiders’ franchise history.
Carr was named the starting quarterback in his rookie season and played well, despite having his worst statistical season with 3,270 yards and tossed 21 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. The 3-13 Raiders were one of the worst teams in the NFL, but Carr continued to improve, and in 2015, he made the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls, throwing a career-high 32 touchdowns.
2016 was his best season with the Raiders, as Raider fans cashed in their NFL predictions, with Carr leading the team to a 12-4 record. The second-year quarterback made his second Pro Bowl with 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns with a career-low six interceptions. Oakland would lead the Raiders to the playoffs as a wild card team but broke his leg in the NFL Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts and was out for the rest of the year.
The Raiders backup Matt McGloin suffered an injury as well, so the Raiders were forced to send out rookie Conor Cook to start the playoff game against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. The rookie threw for 150 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the 27-14 loss to the Texans.
Carr returned from the leg injury to have another Pro Bowl season in 2017, throwing for 3,496 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. Each year, from 2018-2020, Carr threw for 4,000 yards, including a career-high of 4,103 in 2020, despite leaving one game early due to a groin injury. In his eight-year career with the Raiders, Carr has been extremely durable and has only missed two NFL games.
Carr holds multiple franchise records for the Raiders, including touchdowns (170), passing yards (26,896), and pass completions (2,468). Despite the great numbers by Carr, it has not resulted in much winning or improved Super Bowl odds. With a new location in Las Vegas, this leaves Carr’s future in doubt with the team.
He is an outstanding quarterback but, after eight years, the time may be near for the Raiders to move on or perhaps trade for a more veteran QB. Head Coach John Gruden is known for his love of veteran quarterbacks, and we hear whispers about a particular QB in Green Bay. Carr has two years left on his deal with Las Vegas. At 30 years old and entering his ninth NFL season, he can still produce. With Patrick Mahomes in the same division, is Carr a QB that will give the Raiders the best chance to win?
The Las Vegas Raiders have one of the most passionate fan bases in the NFL, but they have been a bad football team for nearly two decades. Since Rich Gannon led the Raiders to the Super Bowl, the franchise has not drafted many quarterbacks. Instead, the team preferred to sign multiple veteran QBs, none of which panned out.
The picks of Russell and Carr had two very different statistical careers, but even with Carr under center, the Raiders have been unable to increase their Super Bowl odds. Since moving to Las Vegas, the Raiders have not drafted a quarterback, and Gruden has declared that the team is thrilled with Carr. Unless something crazy happens, it could be a while before the Silver and Black select another quarterback in the NFL Draft.