A few weeks ago, Fox Sports 1's Colin Cowherd made quite a shocking assertion when he anointed Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr as the NFL's MVP at that point in the early season. While the sports world took offense to this profound proclamation and sounded off on social media, writing it off as a Skip Bayless-like hot take, it's important to understand that Carr's elite play this season definitely should put him in the conversation. His 513 passing yards and four touchdowns in Oakland's Week 8 thrilling overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was not only a coming out party to the fantasy community, but also made a statement to the rest of the league.
Derek Carr is an elite quarterback. Derek Carr is going to be Oakland's franchise quarterback for a long time (if they pay him when the time comes). Derek Carr's numbers are off the chain. Literally. Derek Carr is absolutely nothing like his older brother David, a former No. 1 overall pick who fizzled out pretty quickly.
So far this year, Derek has led the Raiders to a 6-2 record, good for first place in the AFC West, while throwing for 2,321 yards (5th in the NFL) and 17 touchdowns (T-3rd), compared to just three interceptions (2nd among QB's who have started every game). He has also completed 66.3 percent of his passes and has maintained a passer rating of 100.9. Just Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford have started every game and have managed a better passer rating than Oakland's prized possession.
While his play throughout the beginning of the season might not have lived up to the stereotypical uber-elite numbers that MVP's commonly put up, Week 8 was a completely different story. Check out some of the highlights from his 40-completion masterpiece below.
In case you were wondering, not too many guys have been able to put together a stat line like that in the history of the league.
It's important to note that the Raiders are now 5-0 on the road. That makes them not only a playoff contender, but that makes them especially dangerous. At this point of the season, I'd certainly label them as a Super Bowl contender, despite the fact that they'd eventually have to meet the New England Patriots. (That probably wouldn't go well.) While he obviously can't control some issues that the Raiders have had defensively, Carr has been very much the main reason that the team is of to a hot start and has made a habit of keeping his team in games and bringing them back from deficits.
Not only is Carr an active, vocal leader on the field, but it's obvious that he has made strides in the weight and film rooms also. Consider his stark improvements thus far in his short career.
In his rookie season, he managed 3,270 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a completion percentage of 58.1 and a quarterback rating of 76.6. In his sophomore campaign, he improved dramatically and was given more responsibility in the vertical passing attack, netting 3,987 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions along with a 61.1 completion percentage and 91.1 passer rating. After going just 3-13 in his rookie season, he led his team to a 7-9 record last year.
With his numbers up across the board again this year, it's important to label this torrid start as another example of a career that seems to be trending upwards. On pace for one of the best seasons in team history, now the question becomes whether or not Carr keeps up this pace for the second half of the year. Can he break Rich Gannon's team-record 4,689 passing yards from 2002? What about Daryle Lamonica's 1969 mark of 34 passing touchdowns? Of any Raiders quarterback in history, it was Gannon in his 2002 campaign who managed a 97.3 passer rating. Carr is on pace to break that.
Is it possible that a 25-year-old can have the best statistical season for a quarterback within a franchise that's been in existence since 1960? Absolutely. Can he win the league MVP award? Absolutely. Stars like Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott have been sensational, but considering the team's past (especially at the position), there's no doubt that Carr holds astronomical value towards the team's success.
It also will help his case if the Raiders make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Isn't that what the award is supposed to be all about?