NFL Wire News

Raiders’ Carr goes to bat for retaining Sparano


ALAMEDA, Calif. — Derek Carr doesn’t have a vote, but as the Oakland Raiders prepared to face the Buffalo Bills, he hit the campaign trail for interim coach Tony Sparano.

Conventional wisdom is that Sparano will be out following the season. He has a 2-8 record after the team opened the season 0-4 under Dennis Allen, who was fired.

The Raiders are still on the wrong side of virtually every major statistical marker and by a considerable margin. Most recently, there were one-sided losses against the St. Louis Rams (52-0) and Kansas City Chiefs (31-13) that were precisely the kind of non-competitive games that bothered owner Mark Davis when Allen was in charge.

On the plus side, Sparano is winning over the locker room and is presiding over the development of some young players who will be the core of the Raiders in coming years.

Carr, the second-round draft pick out of Fresno State, and strong-side linebacker Khalil Mack, the first-round pick out of Buffalo, head the list.

Carr would be happy with some continuity even though the Raiders have the 32nd-ranked offense in the NFL and have been outscored by 168 points.

“He’s our leader,” Carr said of Sparano. “Obviously, those decisions are going to happen. We have no control over that, and whoever is here, that’s who we’ll play for. Right now, Coach Sparano is our leader. He genuinely cares about me. He’ll call me into his office just to ask how I’m doing.”

Unconfirmed reports have Davis interested in Jim Harbaugh, who was a Raiders quarterbacks coach under Bill Callahan in 2003-2004 and was hired by Al Davis. Harbaugh is expected to part ways with the 49ers, whether he is fired or traded, following the regular season.

Another coach whom Mark Davis was interested in — former Raiders coach Jon Gruden — signed a seven-year deal to remain on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

The status of general manager Reggie McKenzie is also in question, given the Raiders’ 10-36 record under his watch. Someone like Harbaugh likely would want a hand-picked general manager, rather than going into a situation such as the one he encountered with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.

While the chances of Sparano remaining would appear to be slim, the road to keeping him likely would look like this: Davis can’t find the coach he wants, keeps McKenzie, and McKenzie sells Davis on giving Sparano another year.

Which would be fine with Carr, who would love another year in the same offensive system, knowing what to expect.

“The fact that I don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s hard,” Carr said. “Right now, I’m focused on playing my heart out for him. He pushes the heck out of me, and I love it.”

Sparano is doing what he can to finish strong and keep the Raiders focused on the immediate future rather than what the offseason might bring.

“My only message to them right now is we really decide how this thing is going to end here,” Sparano said. “We can only control what we can control, which is this football game. We have a chance to be 2-0 in front of our fans in the month of December.”

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