The Oakland Raiders have been an NFL afterthought for so long, it's hard to remember the last time we saw them play meaningful football in January.
What's happened in the years since has been a slow-motion car crash for a proud franchise. The win totals in the 13 years since speaks to the wreckage: 4, 5, 4, 2, 4, 5, 5, 8, 8, 4, 4, 3, 7.
With Carr (No. 36 pick, 2014) leading the offense and Khalil Mack (No. 5 pick, 2014) anchoring the defense, Oakland has become a buzzy playoff pick this season. For the first time more than a decade, there are legitimate -- gulp -- expectations for the Silver and Black.
"On paper it looks great. We don't want to be paper champs," Carr told CSN Bay Area at the start of Oakland's offseason workout program. "We've got some good guys, but none of that matters unless we put the work in. Everything can look good in theory and in practice it all falls apart. As a leader of this team, I'm going to concentrate on pushing to get better every day."
"It's a great thing that people are talking about us in that light. When I first got there, they certainly weren't doing that," Carr said. "It's a credit to where we've come from, but that's about it.
"What we did last year on the field was better, but we want the same kind of jump again this year. We want to be better than 7-9. Honestly, 7-9 is not going to cut it. It felt good last year, I think we were close to winning 10 games. We have to continue to push ourselves to do better than that."
The road to the Lombardi Trophy is littered with April darlings, but it's easy to be optimistic in this case. This could finally be the year the Raiders return as power players in the AFC. Frankly, they've been missed.