OAKLAND -- Raiders rookie Derek Carr turned the traditionally boring fourth preseason game into a genuine quarterback controversy.
The fourth round pick, dubbed the quarterback of the future, looked much more like the quarterback of right now as he diced up Seattle's first-team defense in the 41-31 win.
But whoa. Slow down. Think this thing through.
The Raiders are under tremendous pressure now to start Carr. However, the risk of what could go wrong outweighs the benefits of caving to the drooling Raider Nation.
Carr has proven he is worth of his draft pick and being dubbed quarterback. He is clearly the next. But now is premature. Like Semba -- he needs to wait to be king.
Naming Carr the Week 1 starter could expose him to too much, too soon. Primarily, he'll have to perform under the pressure of feeding victories to a starving fan base -- and saving the jobs of the very people who believed in him.
His time is likely coming sooner than previously expected. But at least let starter Matt Schaub blow it first — in an actual regular season game. That way, Carr would be coming in under zero pressure — which is optimal.
I know. I know. Raiders fans are thirsty (for good reason). And Thursday under Carr, the home team looked better than they have all preseason. By far.
Carr threw at All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. He scrambled to get out of trouble, keeping plays alive. He orchestrated a 36-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore by looking off the cornerback before throwing a strike -- surprising technique for a rookie.
What's more, Carr under center seemed to spark something in everyone else. His youthful energy, the potential oozing from his pours, brought something out of his teammates.
And again, this was against Seattle. The Super Bowl champs, with the historically good defense, who are favorites to repeat.
"I was real excited that they played," Carr said after completing 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. "Obviously, you want to play against the best. They've got the ring to prove it and that's what we're playing for. ... I was happy they were out there. They fly out there. Their fast. That's what the Legion of Boom is right?"
But it was a preseason game. A lot of things went well for the Raiders. And even though it was against Seattle, it doesn't erase the real issues that starting Carr would present.
The Raiders would still be throwing Carr out there behind an offensive line that hasn't played a real game together and has looked shaky most of this preseason. What if they are a mess on the road and Carr ends up under pressure all game?
He's handing off to a core of running backs that are probably an even bigger question mark. Maurice Jones-Drew has had his moments in the preseason but we still don't know how much he has left. And we can't expect anything from Darren McFadden until he shows he can stay on the field.
What if the New York Jets shut down the running game and leaves Carr to win it by himself? Is the rookie ready for the coverages he's going to get thrown at him? He'll be seeing things he's never seen before -- no, Seattle didn't throw the kitchen sink at him.
And then there is this: who will Carr be throwing to?
Rod Streater is about the only sure thing in the receiving core. What happens when they drop passes or can't get open?
Even more important than the win-loss record this year is the development of Carr. If things go all bad, it could have lasting implications on his confidence and his career. He only has to look to his brother, David, for evidence.
Is it worth it to beat the Jets and Houston? Is it a set-up feeding him to Bill Belichick in Week 4?
Look at it this way: if Schaub is the guy and he goes out there and bombs, the Raiders will have Carr to be a boost of life. If Carr starts and goes out there and bombs, now the Raiders are turning to the guy that lost his job in the first place.
Yeah, that'll lift some spirits in the locker room.
The plan was to sit Carr, the unpolished Fresno State product, and let him learn the ropes under Schaub. So once the Raiders established some things, a more mature Carr could step right in and take the Raiders to the upper echelon of the AFC. That's a good plan.
"Wiz said I was less rookie (Thursday night)," Carr said with a smile, referring to offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski.
Giving the keys of the franchise to a rookie quarterback hasn't been the most fruitful formula. Not everyone can handle it. And several of those who did handle it took a long time before they wound up a successful quarterback.
Since 2000, 43 quarterbacks have been named to the Pro Bowl. Of those, nine were starters from Game 1 of their rookie season.
Seven of those nine have come in the last three years: Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.
Between 2000 and 2010, only three of the All-Pro quarterbacks had been named the starting quarterback for Week 1 of their rookie season: Manning, Kerry Collins and Drew Bledsoe.
But it is a fair conclusion that Carr is the best quarterback the Raiders have right now. Admittedly, Carr looked like the Raiders' best hope to do something legit this season. And Schaub, who was signed this offseason to bring some credibility and experience to the position, now feels more like an anchor holding the Raiders back.
Still, everybody needs to take a deep breath and let it play out.
"I just wanted to go out and get better," Carr said.
Yes, he looked great. And he has the markings of someone who can join Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton as the next generation of star quarterbacks.
But he will still be that if he takes over in Week 6. Or Week 12. Or in 2015. Except then, he'll have some time to study and watch, to work on his body, to mentally prepare for the task.
Throwing him to the wolves off the bat could work. But the cost of it not working could be too steep of a price to pay.