With the offseason underway for the Las Vegas Raiders, we will begin a series that takes a look back at each Raiders position group in 2021 and how that position fared during the season, starting with the most valuable position in football: quarterback.
Starter: Derek Carr
Backup: Marcus Mariota
The Raiders posted a 10-7 record and the team’s first playoff berth since 2016 despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Perhaps none of that would have been possible without the stellar quarterback play of Derek Carr.
Carr posted a career high in passing yards with 4,804 while tossing 23 touchdown passes and a 68.4% completion rating. Despite missing some of his key targets such as TE Darren Waller for a good portion of the season, Carr was still able to put up solid numbers to keep the Las Vegas offense humming.
Though it won’t show up on the stat sheet, Carr’s poise was just as key. In a season that saw the Raiders go into four overtime games, Carr put the team on his back and led the team down the field on four game-winning overtime drives.
“Our back was against the wall. There’s no doubt about that. That’s a fact and everyone could see that. And the way that we fought today and for as long as it took to win. You know we always say ‘the 4th quarter or however long it takes to win.’ We had to do that today and I’m very proud of our team,” Carr said in the postgame press conference following the Thanksgiving Day overtime win over the Cowboys.
Perhaps more valuable than his stats, however, was Carr stepping up to be the vocal leader of this team. In a rollercoaster season that featured a number of ups and downs, it was Carr that stepped up to lead his team to the playoffs. From Weeks 9 through 14, the Raiders went 1-4 and yet the team never wavered.
Carr said the goal for his team was to make the playoffs, and even though Las Vegas had been written off, the Raiders miraculously made the postseason. Carr never let his team quit on themselves and soldiered on. Both on and off the field, Carr was a leader that his teammates could look to for inspiration.
“I have a job to do and that’s to lead these men. Especially now, they need a leader more than ever,” Carr said following the in-season resignation of Jon Gruden. My job is to lead them with my actions like I always have and my voice. Just trying to be a strong voice for people to continually bring people together and push people in the right direction,”
Carr’s words proved to be prophetic as he stepped up to lead this team when they needed a leader more than ever.
Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota has had an interesting career that has led him to Las Vegas. Though he went from the #2 overall pick in the 2015 draft to #2 on the depth chart, Mariota’s importance to the offense must not be overlooked.
While only playing three total snaps from Week 1 to Week 11 (thanks in large part due to injury), Mariota’s role greatly expanded in Week 12. Mariota would become an option quarterback, a dangerous threat because of his speed, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown on the season. Simply having Mariota on the field would force teams to adjust to his style. While he never accumulated mind-boggling stats, Mariota was a vital piece to Vegas’s running game.
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