Josh McDaniels briefly paused, smirked and admitted Tuesday he thinks about quarterbacks every single day of his life.
It is, after all, the most important position in the sport — and the most glaring void on his team’s roster.
“It’s obviously one of the biggest factors that will certainly impact our season, let alone our offseason,” the Las Vegas Raiders coach said during his media session at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But there’s nothing we can do other than go through our process and really do a good job of evaluating our opportunities and our options, make smart decisions about what’s best for the Raiders every step of the way. But there’s definitely going to be some bodies added to that position.”
The theme of McDaniels’ media session at the combine remained consistently vague.
After releasing Derek Carr, the Raiders are going to explore every avenue to address quarterback.
McDaniels didn’t reveal a preference in archetype, pointing toward the many differences in the signal-callers in the upcoming draft class. He didn’t tip his hand when it comes to the free-agent class, either, but did leave the door open for Las Vegas to address the position in 2023 with a veteran instead of spending a top pick on a quarterback the Raiders don’t necessarily love.
“The goal for us, eventually, is to have somebody that’s going to be here for a long time,” McDaniels said. “I think that you see the teams that are having success right now in our league, in our conference and specifically in our division, they’re young players that were drafted by their clubs and they’re being developed there under the same continuity. So I think eventually, yes.
“Do I think you have to do that if you’re not sure, or you’re not sold on the player, and now you’re making a mistake just to try to say that you’re solving a problem? I don’t think that’s really a smart decision. So we’re going to do everything we can do to evaluate every player at that position, both in the draft and free agency, and try to see what we can do to improve the room. … The goal, eventually, is to have a player here who’s going to be a Raider for a long time.”
The 2023 offseason is expected to include plenty of high-profile movement at quarterback, with players like Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and others available for hire. McDaniels has a history with Garoppolo from their days spent together in New England, but the Raiders have multiple options available to address the position.
They’re also not looking for a specific type of quarterback. McDaniels told reporters Tuesday the Raiders’ system will fit the quarterback, not the other way around.
It isn’t just about quarterback, though. After a career year that began with an unusually high amount of preseason reps in the Hall of Fame Game and ended with him finishing as the NFL’s rushing king, Josh Jacobs is approaching free agency. If McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler have their way, Jacobs will remain a Raider for quite a while.
“That’s the hope and the goal is that he’s here for a while,” McDaniels said. “We’ll see how that all plays out, but again, Dave and Josh’s representatives have been in contact, and that’s the goal. That’s what we’re working toward.”
Jacobs spent the majority of 2022 running in an offense led by Carr, whose departure was the result of a decision McDaniels described Tuesday as difficult to make. Las Vegas and Carr are both moving on in separate directions, though, putting another priority atop the Raiders’ offseason checklist.
If McDaniels isn’t looking for a specific player, or at least isn’t revealing a preference, he is requiring one non-negotiable trait: leadership.
“You just saw our championship game played a couple of weeks ago, two incredible leaders of their football teams,” McDaniels said. “I think that’s very consistent among the best players at their position. You’ve got to have a great leader, he’s got to be able to have mental and physical toughness, no question about it. … Those kinds of things are going to be prerequisites for us. He’s got to be able to move the ball, score points and take care of it. When you talk about quarterback play, they need to get us in the end zone, we need to protect the ball from the other team, and ultimately, we’ve got to win.
“There’s a lot of things that go into playing this position really well. There’s a lot of different people that can fit those traits and qualities, and I think we’ve seen in the last so many years, the requirements have changed. … It’s not one size fits all, but I think there’s a lot of things you’re looking for if you’re going to commit to them.”
With every option on the table and plenty to peruse, the Raiders have ample work ahead of them. They’ll use the weeks and months ahead to get it done.