NFL

Raiders to bench Derek Carr for final two games

By Sports Desk December 28, 2022

Derek Carr will not start the Las Vegas Raiders' final two regular-season games, marking the possible beginning of the end of the veteran quarterback's nine-year tenure with the franchise.

Coach Josh McDaniels made the announcement on Wednesday, with Jarrett Stidham to make his first NFL start in place of Carr when the 6-9 Raiders host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

McDaniels cited a desire to give younger players a longer look, with Las Vegas essentially eliminated from playoff contention.

"It's more about the opportunity," McDaniels said of the decision. "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."

Stidham, a fourth-round pick for the New England Patriots in 2019, has seen spot duty in 11 previous NFL appearances. The 26-year-old has completed 32 of 61 passes (52.5 per cent) with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Carr has started all but two of the Raiders' 144 regular-season games since winning the starting quarterback job as a rookie in 2014.

Both he and the offense have struggled lately, however.

The three-time Pro Bowler was intercepted three times as the Raiders were held to 201 total yards in last week's 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carr has been picked off nine times in his last six starts and has completed 55 per cent or less of his pass attempts in four straight games for the first time in his career.

Carr compiled a 68.7 per cent completion rate over the course of the 2018 to 2021 seasons, second only to Drew Brees among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts during that time frame.

"It's never on one person," McDaniels said following the Pittsburgh loss. "I know that statistic gets applied to one person, but certainly there's other factors.

"Look, that's not good enough. And for us to be able to win at this time of the year and be productive, offensively you have to throw the ball better than what we've thrown at times here in the last month and a half."

Speculation will now turn to whether Carr has played his final game in a Raiders uniform. His $32.9million base salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on the roster three days after the Super Bowl, while the team can save over $29m by releasing him before then.

McDaniels said Carr will be inactive as the third quarterback for Sunday's game, with rookie Chase Garbers to be promoted from the practice squad to serve as Stidham's backup.

"Derek was great," McDaniels said when asked how Carr handled the decision. "He understands the scenario that we're in and the situation and is very supportive of the two young guys. He'll do anything he can to help them."

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    Xabi Alonso will not allow Bayer Leverkusen's Europa League final defeat against Atalanta to alter his pride, after their historic 51-game unbeaten run ended on Wednesday.

    The Bundesliga champions were eyeing an unlikely treble, with the DFB-Pokal final to come this weekend, but those plans came crashing down in a 3-0 loss to Atalanta.

    Ademola Lookman single-handedly powered Gian Piero Gasperini's side to their first title in 61 years, producing an individual performance for the ages with a decisive hat-trick.

    European heartbreak marked Leverkusen's first loss this season, with their last defeat coming to Bochum on the last day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign, as Alonso's side were finally stopped.

    Yet the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder says nothing can take away from Leverkusen's memorable campaign.

    "For me the result today does not change one bit how I feel about my players or what we have been doing," the Leverkusen head coach told TNT Sports.

    "It hurts because we wanted to lift the trophy but you can't have everything. We lifted the Bundesliga and we have the chance to lift the DFB-Pokal on Saturday."

    Leverkusen are the first team to win the league title but lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same term since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

    "This season and achievements have surpassed all expectations," Alonso continued.

    "I was hoping and getting ready to maybe do something great but this has been so much more.

    "To achieve what we have for a club like Leverkusen is great. To be in the last week of the season having lifted the Bundesliga and then going for the Pokal too means a lot.

    "First year as a coach, it is going quite well!"

    A monumental occasion at the Aviva Stadium marked Atalanta's first-ever major European trophy as they became the 10th different Italian side to do so, second only to teams from England (13).

    Alonso was unsurprised by the excellence of Gasperini and his Atalanta side, however.

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    Gian Piero Gasperini and Ademola Lookman both cherished creating Atalanta history after ending Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten run and securing Europa League glory.

    Lookman produced a performance worthy of the most important European moment in Atalanta's history, securing the club's first-ever major trophy on the continent after his dazzling hat-trick.

    The Nigeria winger is just the sixth player to manage a treble in a major UEFA final and the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Twente in 1975.

    Lookman will be the toast of Bergamo when Gasperini's side head home, boasting their first trophy in 61 years – after the Coppa Italia – following a 3-0 triumph to end Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run.

    "One of the best nights of my life," the hat-trick hero told TNT Sports in Dublin.

    "Amazing performance from the team, we did it, we did it, we did it! I haven't got much else to say, but fantastic."

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    The veteran Atalanta mastermind echoed Lookman's sentiment, after securing just a second trophy in the Italian club's history.

    "I think we wrote history, also for the way we won it," said Gasperini, speaking to UEFA's official media channels.

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    Ademola Lookman will be the toast of Bergamo after his hat-trick inspired Atalanta to Europa League glory, ending Bayer Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run after a 3-0 defeat in Dublin.

    Nigeria winger Lookman is just the second player to score a treble for an Italian side in the final of a major European competition, after Pierino Prati for Milan against Ajax in the 1969 European Cup.

    His single-handed match-winning heroics secured Atalanta's first-ever major European trophy as they became the 10th different Italian side to do so, second only to teams from England (13).

    The records continued to tumble for Lookman, whose hat-trick was the sixth in a major UEFA final and the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Twente in 1975.

    Having no response to a performance for the ages, Leverkusen suffered their first defeat since their final game of the 2022-23 season, ending a 361-day unbeaten run from last losing 3-0 to Bochum.

    Gian Piero Gasperini's masterclass will etch his name into Atalanta history, with the Italian – aged 66 years and 117 days on Wednesday – the fourth oldest manager to win a major European trophy.

    Only Raymond Goethals (71y 231d, 1993 Champions League), Heynckes (68y 16d, 2013 Champions League) and Alex Ferguson (66y 142d, 2008 Champions League), have done so at an older age.

    Owing to Gasperini's genius and Lookman's quality, Atalanta are the first Italian side to lift the Europa League trophy since its rebrand in 2009, with Parma in 1999 the last Serie A side to win the UEFA Cup.

    Alonso will hope to bounce back in Saturday's DFB-Pokal final but the Bundesliga champions are the first team to win the league title but lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same season since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

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