No, Derek Carr Is Not Better Than Kenny Stabler

I can’t believe I actually have to do this, but there are people on the internet that think Derek Carr is the best quarterback in Raiders history. If you want to say he’s better than Jim Plunkett, I’m with you. Same for George Blanda. I’ll go a little farther, I’d even rather have Derek Carr than Rich Gannon. I’m starting to sound like a stan over here.

But you’re drowning in the kool aid if you really believe in your soul that Derek Carr is better than Kenny Stabler was.

No, Derek Carr Is Not Better Than Kenny Stabler

It’s true. Derek Carr is the franchise’s all-time leading passer. With each year that goes by, his numbers dwarf Ken “Snake” Stabler’s more and more. There are people out there that will use this information, strangling the context, to imply that Derek Carr is a better quarterback than Ken Stabler.

If you’re asking me if I’d rather play Carr or a Ken Stabler I snagged from a time machine, I don’t know that I don’t pick Carr. The league is so completely different now, and the era in which Snake played is basically a different sport than Carr’s. But that’s kinda the point, isn’t it?

Derek Carr has played his entire career in Bill Polian’s pass-happy protect the quarterback 15 yard penalty NFL. I’ve written an article (click the link, dummy) where I show the dramatic increase in passing numbers and efficiency over a 40 year span, and while Carr has struggled with Marcus Peters, his receivers didn’t have to go up against guys like Mel Blount. Let’s take a look at the stark contrast in numbers.

By The Numbers

Derek Carr was a MVP candidate once in his career, the 2016 season. Since we’re talking about numbers, since we’re pretending numbers are the same nearly a half-century later, let’s look at Carr’s rankings. In his MVP caliber season, Carr was 14th in yards, eighth in touchdowns, eighth in passer rating, and 16th in quarterback rating, because weirdly those two are not the same thing. I can hear you now, he missed most of the 15th game, as well as all of the 16th game. Don’t worry, I adjusted for his pace across 16 starts, and those numbers change to 12th and sixth respectively.

When Kenny Stabler actually won MVP in 1974, here are the guys that finished where Carr did, and their statlines.

  • 12th in yards- John Hadl with 1,752 yards vs. Derek Carr with 4,199 yards.
  • Sixth in Touchdowns- Fran Tarkenton with 17 touchdowns vs. Derek Carr with 30 touchdowns.
  • Eighth In Passer Rating- Bob Griese with a rating of 80.9 vs. Derek Carr with a rating of 96.7

And I’ll take it a step further, here’s Carr’s “MVP type season” vs. Snake’s bonafide AP NFL League MVP season-

Carr’s 4,199 yards, 30 touchdowns, six interceptions, 63.75% completion percentage, 96.7 rating vs. Stabler’s 2,469 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 57.4% completion percentage, 94.9 rating.

And Snake put up these numbers in a 14 game season.

You want to build an argument for Carr, against Stabler, based on his numbers, when the numbers look so dramatically different? Weird hill to die on.

By The Everything Else

What other arguments does Carr have? That Kenny’s teams and coaches were better? That’s not a sound argument. Kenny Stabler was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, an award Carr hasn’t won. Stabler led the NFL in touchdowns and passer rating, neither of which number four has accomplished. Kenny was a multi-time All-Pro, something Carr hasn’t done once. Kenny was a Super Bowl Champion, something Carr has never done. Stabler consistently won the AFC West, something Carr hasn’t sniffed. The Snake was the All-Decade quarterback for the 70’s, I doubt very much Carr will ever have a decade to claim he was the league’s best quarterback.

If you’re going to tell me that Derek Carr is better than Kenny Stabler because he has passably existed during the most pass-happy era in the history of professional football, then I have excellent news. I have beachfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you, and because you’re such a genius, I’ll give you a discount.

Let’s revisit this debate when Carr wins a ring. Nay, an AFC Championship game. Fine, a playoff game. Let’s come back when he takes a snap in the playoffs. We can run it back when he wins the AFC West. Is it a fair argument? No. But a legacy of one overrated 12-4 team does not put you in the same conversation as a literal Hall of Fame icon.


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