There’s one trait most of the great ones share: No matter how well they’re doing, they’re always driven to be better.
There’s no plateau for a guy like Wayne Gretzky or Micheal Jordan. They don’t get to a point and say, well, I’ve done enough. They don’t try to coast through and get solid results with little effort.
It’s something you often see with role players, and even those with the potential to be great. When natural ability is enough, some guys just don’t want it anymore. It’s that drive and determination that really separates the great from those who history will forget. Everyone is physically talented in the NFL. Only some of them want to be the best, though.
Count Raiders’ QB Derek Carr among their number.
The Raiders played the Jaguars last weekend, and they won 33-16. Oakland scored more than twice as many points as the Jags, a team that put up a ton of points last year. An easy win. It kept the Raiders at the top of the AFC West. And yet, rather than soaking it in and just accepting his position at the top, Carr said this after the game:
“There’s three plays down there in the red [zone] where we’re literally this close from having a lot more points. We’ve got to figure out a way, whether it’s rep it again or work harder, whatever it is, we have to do it.”
Three plays. This guy just won the game with ease and he’s worried about three plays when they could have had more points. Not just points, mind you. He’s talking about plays when they got field goals, but they could have been touchdowns.
It’s one thing to come out after a loss and talk about getting better. Converting more in the redzone. Not leaving points on the field. Getting the offense to fire on all cylinders. These are things you hear constantly when teams lose and they’re trying to focus on righting the ship by the next week.
But here’s Carr, saying that in a win.
It’s also worth noting that he didn’t make any huge errors. There are no interceptions on that stat sheet for the Jaguars game (on the other side, Blake Bortles threw two). There were no fumbles by Carr. So he’s not talking about eliminating mistakes. He just means that he played well and that is not enough. He has to be better.
And sure, he has a point. He only threw for 200 yards, not 300. His completion percentage looks good in a vacuum, at 62.2, but that’s the second-worst mark of the season for him. His passer rating of 85.4 was below his season average of 97.2.
But still, those aren’t bad numbers. He did well and is not satisfied.
"My MVP of the league is Derek Carr." – @ColinCowherd
RT if you agree with Colin pic.twitter.com/LSSgLuRRX8
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) October 24, 2016
This game was a good test, since you could compare him straight up to Bortles. The Jags took Bortles third overall, the first quarterback off the board. Then came Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and finally Carr.
Clearly, Carr is the best of the group. Bortles completed the same amount of passes on Sunday, but needed six more throws to do it. He also threw one TD, but he balanced it out with two picks. Bortles looks to have regressed in this third year, while Carr has shown the traditional positive progression, getting a bit better every year and looking like a star in his third season.
Manziel, of course, is out of the league. Bridgewater has been good, but he blew out his knee before the season and wasn’t as dynamic as Carr before that.
So, what makes a second-round quarterback a star? It all comes back to that mindset.
He’s not out there just to have fun or to do what he can already do well. He’s not there just to win. Even when the Raiders come out on top, doubling up the score on the No. 3 QB in the draft, Carr just leaves the game thinking about three missed opportunities and how he can get even better.