Why Derek Carr believes Saints are 'so far ahead' of 2023 struggles

Saints unveil schedule with star-studded search for social media intern (3:15)

The Saints release their 2024 schedule with a search for their new social media intern, including appearances from Drew Brees, Dustin Poirier and Shannon Sharpe. (3:15)

METAIRIE, La. -- Quarterback Derek Carr shook his head when asked if he was bothered by low expectations for the New Orleans Saints in 2024.

"No, no. I've been on teams where that was the case and that was our best team," Carr said. "Then you come in and you play good football and you just try to just string good days together. ... That's the exciting part about this game, is you always get another chance. Not every time, but this group of guys will get another chance to put that ball down and say 'This is what Saints football is this year.'"

Carr, speaking to reporters after the Saints' first practice of OTAs on Tuesday, sounded as positive as he did a year ago, just a few months removed from signing a four-year, $150 million contract in free agency. Since then, New Orleans finished 9-8 and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Carr believes the chemistry the team started to develop at the end of last season will translate to 2024, and he thinks the work everyone has put in this offseason is already producing positive results.

"We're so far ahead of where we were last year, just as a team, just as a group of guys," he said.

Ahead of Carr's first season as a Saint, he and the team were excited about the season's possibilities; he and wide receiver Michael Thomas gushed about each other and the capabilities of the offense. The 2023 season certainly saw some highs, like decisive wins over the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the lows included three losses where Carr was injured, public spats with teammates and a growing sense of frustration among the fans, a number of whom sold their tickets and booed the offense during home games. Thomas, who is now a free agent, publicly criticized Carr on his social media.

"Last year we were so excited. Everyone was so excited, but we really didn't show why we were so excited until it was too late," Carr said. "So for us, you get humbled a little bit. That's unacceptable for what we have in that room."

Carr played some of his best football in the final two games of the season, completing 76.6% of his passes for six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 131.3 quarterback rating. He said he wants to get off to a quicker start than last year, and the team will have the opportunity to do so when the season opens against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 8, a little more than three months away.

That momentum from last season can translate only so much, however, as Carr will enter this season working with his fourth offensive coordinator in four years dating back to his last two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis doesn't think that will be a problem.

"It's different coaches, but look, there's a lot of crossover between all of these systems. There's a lot of things that Derek's familiar with," Loomis said. "He's not a new player; he's a veteran player that's been in several offenses over the years. He'll adapt really quickly, I'm confident of that, and there will be a familiarity with his teammates that didn't exist last year."

Carr put a positive spin on the multiple coaching changes he has had over the years, saying that it puts all the players on a level playing field as they learn something new.

"The cool part about this time is that we're all learning together, and there's something about going through it together," Carr said. "Last year I'm the guy learning everything new. I'm trying to play catch-up while everyone's helping me. But the cool part of this is we're all starting over. I feel more of that leadership, that coaching role now."

Carr has spent a lot of time with quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, working through ways to get everyone on the same page in new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak's offense.

"I think it's been pretty good. There's a lot of carryover from things he's done ... throughout his career and then there's some new stuff that we've asked him to do that he's really embraced," Janocko said.

They've also spent some time going back to the basics.

"It's just as far as getting back to training his feet in the way that we like within our offense ... training his progressions, understanding our nomenclature, the way we're going to call plays ... call motions," Janocko said. "It's just a continuous effort to get everybody together."

Carr said he knows the positive talk won't mean much until the Saints prove things in September. But things have "felt right" based on the effort he has seen so far, he said.

"We're just trying to do more so that when we get back out there on the field, we can make our fans proud and they can be proud of the football they see on tape," Carr said. "Because last year it was not good enough. ... We've been really focused on making sure we do more, now, not talking about it, we're just doing the work, so that when we come back after training camp, we make our fans proud with the image of football that they see."