With one specific path to the postseason still possible, the Las Vegas Raiders are shutting down their top quarterback.
"None of us is happy with where we're at, but we think it's an opportunity to evaluate a younger player who hasn't had much time to play," McDaniels said. "Talking to Derek -- who was great -- he understands the scenario that we're in and the situation. Very supportive of the two young guys. Those three guys have worked together hand in hand all year. He'll do anything he can to help them."
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Carr will not practice and will be listed as "not injury related." As part of the conversations over the last few days, both sides concluded it was best for Carr to step away the final two games to avoid being a distraction, Rapoport added.
Sitting Carr is not quite the Silver and Black waving the white flag, but it's close. The Raiders are still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, but need a number of games elsewhere to go their way in order to reach the postseason.
McDaniels' decision to turn to Stidham suggests the Raiders are more interested in seeing what else they have on their roster at quarterback than pursuing an unlikely playoff berth. It also indicates they might be ready to move on from Carr, even if McDaniels won't outright say it at this point in the year.
"It's more about the opportunity," McDaniels explained. "We're all accountable to where we're at, and I think this is more about an opportunity to see a guy that we haven't seen play in a situation like this against a couple of good teams, really good teams.
"Derek's played a lot of football. There's a lot of evaluating that's gonna take place here once the season's over, as far as how we make the most progress, what makes the most sense for everybody and how we move forward. We knew that was going to be the case.
"Obviously, we were hoping to be in a different scenario than where we are currently. But there's no finality to today. This is just a decision we thought, after talking about it and contemplating it, that we thought would be an opportunity for us to see what we have in him. And how we do going forward, we'll see. There's a lot to be sorted through once the season's over."
The veteran Carr signed a three-year, $121.5 million extension with the Raiders in April, which included a no-trade clause. The deal was wisely structured, providing the Raiders a way out of the agreement thanks to a low 2023 dead cap number of $5.62 million if he is cut or traded within three days of Super Bowl LVII. Carr's entire 2023 salary ($32.9 million) plus $7.5 million of his 2024 salary is otherwise fully guaranteed for injury, meaning if Carr is injured over the final two weeks, Las Vegas would be on the hook.
Moving on from a healthy Carr this February is certainly feasible from a financial standpoint. It's also important to note McDaniels said Carr played "a lot of football," not a lot of good football in 2022.
Carr has completed 60.8% of his passes in 2022, which stands as the second-lowest completion percentage of his nine-year career. He's posted a 24-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio, making it two consecutive seasons in which he's thrown 14 interceptions. His passer rating of 86.3 is also the second-worst of his career.
The highly touted pairing of Carr and former Fresno State teammate Davante Adams -- created by sending first- and second-round picks to Green Bay in exchange for the superstar receiver -- hasn't quite lived up to expectations. Adams still barreled past 1,000 receiving yards this season and caught 12 touchdowns through 15 games, but the duo has struggled to put together four quarters of quality football on a weekly basis. The tale of the Raiders' offense has too often been one of an explosive first half, and a quiet final two quarters, with opposing defenses dedicating plenty of resources toward eliminating Adams and forcing Carr to produce with his other targets.
This, and a knack for finding unlikely ways to lose games has led the Raiders to their current standing at 6-9. As McDaniels said, it's a disappointing result from a team that was clearly committed to winning in 2022.
"It is what it is," McDaniels said. "We're not going to have Chandler out there, we're not going to have Denzel out there, so we've dealt with this in other positions, obviously. The intent is to have great week of preparation and practice and go out there and do everything we can to win the game. And that's what we're going to try and do. So, excited to play at home in front of our fans. We've had a decent year at home so far, and we're going to try and continue that this week."
Stidham hasn't seen more than a small number of snaps in his four-year NFL career. The backup appeared in eight games between 2019 and 2020 with New England, completing 24 of 48 passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions before following McDaniels to Las Vegas. He's thrown just 13 passes as a Raider, completing eight of them for 72 yards.
Shifting to Stidham gives McDaniels the best opportunity to see the understudy in action. However, because of the small sample size provided by two games, the results likely won't determine whether Stidham is worthy of a shot at the starting job in Las Vegas in 2023.
"He works really hard and he's very bright, understands our offensive system," McDaniels said of Stidham. "He's prepared like he's playing every week since he's been in the NFL. He was the backup as a rookie. He has experience getting himself ready to go, in that regard. I thought that giving him a full week, seeing how this affects his preparation, his practice, his performance on Sunday, I think is a good starting point for him. But I expect him to be ready to go like he's always been. I know that's his mindset and he works really hard to do that."
Despite McDaniels' offseason support for Carr, it sounds as if the coach has realized the QB might not fit what he envisions for the Raiders in his long-term plan. A change of scenery might be in the cards for Carr, who will certainly attract at least a few interested suitors if made available.
"Those aren't easy conversations, but that's the nature of the position," McDaniels said of Carr. "I couldn't be more complimentary of him the way he handled it. This is a A1-class human being, and he's obviously meant a lot to this place for a long time. As I said, we'll see how this goes going forward. I'm not going to sit here and predict the future. There's a lot that could happen and we're gonna take those things one day at a time, and right now we're going to get ready for the 49ers."