OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) leave the Dawg Pound behind and visit the Oakland Raiders (0-3) at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Sunday, the game will feature two highly-hyped players trying to prove they are indeed what is known as "franchise quarterbacks."
The Browns will unleash the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield, for his first NFL start after bouncing off the bench last Thursday (Sept. 20) to lead Cleveland on a come-from-behind, 21-17 victory over the New York Jets.
That famously ended a Browns losing streak at 635 days.
The Raiders counter with Derek Carr, who was a mere second-round pick out of Fresno State in 2014, but quickly became a team leader touted as a franchise quarterback -- and paid like one -- with a contract extension in 2017 worth $125 million over five years. However, despite improved play since the season opener, Carr and the Raiders are a disappointing 0-3 entering the game.
In fact, despite tons of praise and a well-stocked bank account, Carr has only one winning season going into his sixth year and a career record that is now 28-37.
It may be a fortuitous turn for Carr that the national focus in Sunday's game in Oakland will be on Mayfield, a gunslinger whose comparisons range from Johnny Manziel, due to size and impromptu demonstrations, to Brett Favre, with whom he shares a high-caliber gun, hair trigger and a killer mentality.
The Browns obviously saw more of the latter, so they selected the controversial Oklahoma quarterback over popular top choice Sam Darnold. And the irony of that draft decision was not lost when Mayfield's victorious debut was against Darnold.
Meanwhile, Carr and the Raiders may not be as bad as their 0-3 record might indicate. They lost to three teams with a combined 8-1 record -- the Los Angeles Rams (3-0), Detroit Lions (2-1) and Miami Dolphins (3-0). And the Raiders were ahead in the third and/or fourth quarter of each game.
The Raiders are sixth in the NFL in total offense.
But, like the rest of the team, his mistakes are made at critical times. The Raiders were outscored in the fourth quarter 37-3. Carr's five interceptions are tied for most in the league.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, the quarterback guru who himself is looking for his first win in 3,591 days (or nine years and 10 months), was on point when describing Carr's play this year.
"I think at times he is trying too hard," Gruden said. "I think sometimes he needs to learn a little bit more patience and he will. I'm really excited about the way he has played and improved and mastered this offense. We are getting closer."