The Raiders haven't had a winning record since the 2002 season, which is also their last playoff appearance, one that ended with a blowout loss in the Super Bowl to the Buccaneers. In the intervening 13 seasons, they've finished .500 twice (and worse than that 11 other times).

But the team appeared to have turned a corner in 2015; after a 4-3 start they finished 7-9, and more importantly, second-year quarterback Derek Carr has shown every sign of being legit. His success has gotten lost in myriad other story lines -- the Raiders possibly relocating, Mark Davis' haircut, etc. -- but he's been one of the pleasant surprises of his draft class (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were taken before him).

How pleasant?

Consider this: When looking at quarterbacks from 1980-2015, Carr has thrown more touchdowns in his first two seasons (53) than Peyton Manning (52), Russell Wilson (52), Andrew Luck (46), Cam Newton (40) and everybody else not named Dan Marino (68).

Carr's also sixth in passing yards (7,257), behind Luck, Newton, Manning, Bortles and Marino.

It's no coincidence Marino's name keeps coming up (at least for the purposes of this post); the Raiders had a chance to draft him in 1983 but instead took offensive lineman Don Mosebar with the 26th overall pick.

Mosebar had a fine career, including three Pro Bowl appearances, but Marino redefined the prolific pocket passer and is now in the Hall of Fame. So how did the Raiders whiff on him?

"If Al Davis had not been in the trial with the NFL and had spent the time he usually spent on the draft, Dan Marino might have been a Raider," Marino's agent Marvin Demoff said during 30 for 30 special on the 1983 NFL draft that included John Elway and Jim Kelly (via "Al liked to throw the ball down the field; Marino could throw the ball down the field. Al liked charismatic quarterbacks; he was a charismatic quarterback. Al liked confidence; nobody had more than Dan."

Derek Carr has had an impressive two-year run with the Raiders. (USATSI)
Derek Carr has had an impressive two-year run with the Raiders. (USATSI)

Turns out, Marino wasn't even on the Raiders' draft board.

"Boy, that's a bad deal that he wasn't in there," former Raiders' director of player personnel Ron Wolf explained on the same 30 for 30 special. "He wasn't in [our draft board] because we had all these rumors [about drug use] coming in. It was bogus. None of it was true. [We] made a bad, bad mistake in relationship to Marino."

The Raiders didn't make that mistake with Carr, who they selected with the 36th overall pick. And while there's plenty Carr can improve on, he's shown glimpses of franchise-quarterback talent. He ranked 12th in total value among all passers last season, according to Football Outsiders' metrics, and the expectation is that he will only get better. Helping that development: having players around him, including Latavius Murray, Michael Crabtree and rookies Amari Cooper and Clive Walford.

“The more great players around a quarterback, the better that quarterback will do,” former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner said during Super Bowl week, according to “It’s not rocket science. Amari isn’t the only good player around Derek Carr. I think we saw that this year. Carr made a big jump because he had the support required to do so.”

So while the Marino-Carr comparisons are nice, the current Raiders quarterback still has a long way to go to match the productivity of the former Dolphins star.

In fact, when looking at the first two years of a quarterback's career, Marino ranks third in's approximate value metric (AV attempt to quantify a player's performance from one season to the next), behind only Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Carr ranks 29th, just behind Tony Banks, Drew Bledsoe and Mark Rypien, and just ahead of Byron Leftwich, Warrren Moon and Vince Young.

Put another way: The early signs are encouraging for Carr but there's a long way to go.