Quarterback Derek Carr
Pick a metric, any metric really, and it will show you that Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was unequivocally better in 2016 than he was the year previous.
His completion percentage was up, improving from 61.1 to 63.8, and his six interceptions were seven fewer than the 13 he threw in his second season as an Oakland Raider.
Had his season not been cut short due to injury Week 16, No. 4 would have also likely set a career best in completions, and passing touchdowns as well. Heck, the man was a viable MVP candidate before that fateful play in the third quarter of the Raiders eventual Week 16 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
That steady improvement from year to year has become one of Carr's calling cards, and headed into 2017 – and healthy once again – the Silver and Black's starting quarterback is hoping that this year will yield similar improvements between the hash marks.
"I hope so," said Carr when asked about his potential for improvement in 2017. "I don't put like measurements on it, or stats, and things like that, but from a decision-making standpoint, from a poise, and comfort standpoint, all those things, playing the game with more knowledge, more wisdom, from that standpoint, I hope I grow every, single year. I really do."
While Carr might not be interested in the stats or accolades attached to his game, the fact remains No. 4 has continued his development as an NFL quarterback the team as a whole has benefited.
Carr's rookie year, when the team started 0-10, seems like a short eternity ago, as the Silver and Black have gone from three, to seven, and now most recently 12 wins, becoming a legitimate threat to the AFC crown if all goes to plan.
Now, Carr's play certainly isn't the only reason for the Raiders resurgence – he'd be the first to say as much – but make no mistake about it, the man under center has been a big reason why the Silver and Black ended their decade-plus playoff drought in 2016.
"The best thing about Derek, and I mean this sincerely, is that he wants to be great, and he understands to be great, it's always a learning process," offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. "It's always a growing process, and for him, it could be something as small as a lead foot placement on an outbreaker to his left, and he wants to drill that, and work it, and work it, and work it, because he happened to leave one ball inside a little bit in a team period, or something like that. For him, it's just consistency, it's taking those little details, and refining them as much as he possibly can, and so that when he's got the perfect look, when he's got the opportunity to attack a one-on-one, he's as accurate as he can be, or get us in and out of the right plays in the right situations."
Downing anticipates seeing an even better version of No. 4 this season, and regardless of all the awards and accolades that Carr has accumulated in his short NFL career, even he knows that there's still a lot left on the horizon, mainly hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
"Ninety-nine out of 100 isn't good enough, so there's always room to improve, and I'm going to work to try and do that," Carr explained. "Numbers, and awards, and all that stuff, can be what it is, I just want to make sure that every day I'm coming out here, I'm working my tail off so that I do get better, because the ultimate goal is winning the Super Bowl, that's the ultimate goal, and once we do that, I'm sure I'll find something I did wrong that season, [and] fix those things."
"Derek's growth and ascension as a quarterback is a tribute to his hard work," added Downing. "And I can tell you that he's only upped his sense of urgency to put out the best version of himself, so [I] would anticipate his hard work paying off."