"I really think Derek's a heck of a player, and I got a lot of respect for what he has done - and with some tough circumstances," Gruden told Vic Tafur of The Athletic. "I'm not gonna answer every media rumor out there, just can't do it. ... I love what Derek Carr did, I love what he brings to our team, and anxious to continue to build around him."
Carr, 28, is coming off one of his best NFL seasons. He posted career highs in completion percentage (70.4), passing yards (4,054), and yards per attempt (7.9) while tossing 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions in 2019. Still, the Raiders finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years with Carr as their starter.
Gruden did leave the door ajar ever so slightly when asked how the Raiders can help Carr reach the next level.
"At quarterback, sometimes you get better because of your experience in the system," he said. "Sometimes you get better because of your supporting cast and sometimes you get better because the play-calling is better.
"So we've got to continue to improve at that position, and we're set out to do that, no matter how we do it."
The Raiders have been linked to impending free agent Tom Brady, and Gruden is known to covet veteran signal-callers. But he and general manager Mike Mayock have both been emphatic in their support of Carr.
"The guy completed 70% of his passes, he had almost a 3-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, I think we're No. 11 in the league in total yards, we were seventh in third-down conversions," Mayock said Tuesday. "We did a lot of really good things on offense last year; the disconnect was we didn't score a lot of points. You're 11 in yards and 24 in points - there's an issue.
"It's defense, it's special teams, it's not scoring in the red zone, and it's not scoring in goal-to-go. To me, those are the issues. Derek Carr played at a high level. I'm very happy with Derek Carr. What I've told everybody I've been in touch with since the day I took this job is we're gonna evaluate every position every year. And if we can get better, we will."
Carr is signed through 2022, but the Raiders could release him for a dead cap hit of $7.9 million this offseason, according to OverTheCap.
The Raiders, who are 11-21 since Gruden returned as head coach in 2018, declined to draft a quarterback with any of their three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. They're slated to make two selections in the opening round this year.