The Las Vegas Raiders Report is pleased to welcome Editor Emeritus and Contributing Senior Columnist Jim Fossum to the team. The former sports editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Fossum recently retired to Las Vegas after spending several years in Oregon. Read his bio below to see just how fortunate we are to have him.

There are far more than mere facts and figures to equate the return of quarterbacks Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota to the huddle Sunday when the Raiders travel to Nashville to meet the Titans. Besides the obvious – both young and developing star players broke their right leg on Christmas Eve last year to end Pro Bowl-caliber seasons – there are the intangibles.

On the field, perhaps only Mariota’s marvelous mobility separates him from Carr and places him among the leaders of a pack of young potential superstar QBs that includes the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston and the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott.

Commanding attention reserved for people, places and things such as Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line and Big & Rich, the Hawaiian-born Samoan has captivated Music City the way he conquered the Great Pacific Northwest. And, with Mariota, there’s substance behind the style.

But two years in, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon has yet to finish a season. A knee injury put a halt to his celebrated rookie year in 2015 just months after he had turned even the most laid-back liberal Oregonian into a frenzied muddle of madness by leading the Ducks on a run at the national championship.

Marcus Mariota Las Vegas Raiders Report

Mariota won the Heisman Trophy as the Ducks top player.

Having lived and been a member of the sports media community in Oregon the past 10 years, I can assure you that you didn’t have to sardine your way into Autzen Stadium in Eugene to appreciate Mariota’s play and what he meant to college football in the state. Some say there’s not a lot to do in Oregon in fall and winter (and spring) besides watch rain patter against your window pane, but Mariota provided a vast umbrella. He’s brought that same aura of promise and excellence to Nashville.

UNLV basketball fans will remember how you could barely negotiate a city crosswalk in the early 1990s without getting the skinny on the Runnin’ Rebels from some passionate fans. The furor around Maryland Parkway was unlike virtually anything seen in these parts given the No. 1-ranked and unbeaten team’s quest to repeat as national champion.

Ditto, Mariota and Oregon. Mariota, who led the Ducks to the 2015 BCS title game, was everywhere in the Beaver state, where you either side with Corvallis–based Oregon State or the Ducks, barely 30 miles away in Eugene – never both, especially at the same time.

Commanding attention reserved for people, places and things such as Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line and Big & Rich, the Hawaiian-born Samoan has captivated Music City the way he conquered the Great Pacific Northwest. And, with Mariota, there’s substance behind the style.

This is a team leader who parties with his teammates but doesn’t drink, never has. No passing fancy, the volunteer designated driver has already joined lofty company despite not completing a single pro season after being selected second overall behind Winston in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Mariota passed for 3,426 yards and 26 TDs with nine interceptions last year in an abbreviated season that produced a 95.6 passer rating. Destined for the Pro Bowl before breaking his fibula at Jacksonville in Week 16, his single-season passer rating ranks third in franchise history behind only Warren Moon and Steve McNair – both established during their NFL Most Valuable Player seasons. Mariota’s 12.4 yards-per-completion ratio – likely bolstered this season by the league’s best front seven and the addition of blossoming wideout Eric Decker – ranked fourth in the league. It certified him worthy of the four-year deal that pays him $6 million annually.

Throw in the backfield tandem of three-time Pro Bowler DeMarco Murray and fellow Heisman winner Derrick Henry and the Raiders will need strong, supple necks to shadow Mariota and rest of the action when the Titans take the snaps.

With all the talk of breakout seasons by Prescott, Winston and Carr, it is Mariota’s two-season passer rating that might make your helmet explode. Sixth best in NFL history after 27 starts, he plays even better when it matters most. His 114.6 rating in the red zone includes 33 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Already ranked by one ratings service as the NFL’s 50th-best player (Carr is 11th), the 23-year-old Mariota could – and should – establish himself as the face of the NFL. He’s clearly a figure the league should embrace as it confronts its own public relations issue and image dilemma. The league should celebrate a player who stays in the end zone and out of the bars. Featuring people of high character, it’s a scheduling blessing for the NFL that Week 1 pits Mariota and Carr.

About The Author

Former longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal Sports Editor Jim Fossum brings nearly 40 years of award-winning experience covering virtually every facet of print and digital journalism to Las Vegas Raiders Report. Fossum is the site's senior columnist and Editor Emeritus. Recently retired, the 1980 Northern Arizona University graduate began his 25-year Review-Journal career in January 1981 as tennis, golf and football beat writer. He was lead writer for the annual Alan King/Caesars Palace Tennis Classic, featuring Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg; all three of Las Vegas’ major professional golf tour stops as a longtime member of the Golf Writers Association of America; and the celebrated “Randall Cunningham Era” of UNLV football. Also a copy editor and page designer who became R-J sports editor at age 33 shortly after covering UNLV in the 1991 Final Four, Fossum was named Nevada Sportswriter of the Year in 1998 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Winner of numerous writing awards from the Nevada Press Association, his reporting experience includes ringside coverage of several of boxing’s most anticipated world championship prize fights, including the highlight of his career -- the September 1981 world welterweight title bout between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard at Caesars Palace. Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Larry Bird are among the many superstars he has interviewed, in addition to helping document the careers of Las Vegans Andre Agassi and Greg Maddux. Honored with numerous community service awards from local charitable organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Cancer Society, Fossum was cited in the late 1990s by the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to local athletics. A longtime member of the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), he helped oversee the organization’s annual West Regional Convention for several years at various Las Vegas Strip resorts. He helped recruit APSE’s national convention to the MGM Grand in 2006 after annually attending weeklong seminars at many of the country’s largest and most respected major dailies. In 2005, he was honored with Lake Havasu High School’s Distinguished Alumni Award and delivered his alma mater’s Class of 2006 commencement speech 30 years after graduating. Review-Journal sports editor for 16 years, Fossum retired to the Oregon Coast at age 48 in January 2006. Most recently, he was founder/publisher/editor of OregonCoastSports.com (previously SportsLincolnCounty.com), an independent website dedicated to area youth. He also worked at two weekly community newspapers (Newport News-Times and Lincoln City News Guard) as section editor, reporter, photographer and page designer.

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