Why the Oakland Raiders Must Let Terrelle Pryor Start

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Terrelle Pryor #6 of the Oakland Raiders is stopped for a loss by Shaun Phillips #95 of the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It appears that new Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson is prepared to undo one of the errors of his predecessor, one that led to the Raiders ranking 18th in the NFL in rushing in 2012.

While he's at it, Olson should make an even bigger change. One that carries with it significant risk but gives the Raiders the best chance of moving forward after years of mismanagement.

It's time for Terrelle Pryor to start at quarterback.

The first switch Olson is making, according to Eric Gilmore of Bay Area Sports Beat, is abandoning the zone-blocking technique implemented by previous offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in favor of the power-blocking scheme the team employed previously.

"Initially, maybe a year ago, they weren’t sure about that zone scheme. Now, after a year of having to look at it, hey, maybe he [Darren McFadden] is a downhill runner. So we’ll get back to some of the gap scheme and the things he does well."

This news should inspire elation in Raiders fans. Simply put, the zone-blocking scheme was an absolute disaster in 2012. After averaging more than five yards a carry in both 2010 and 2011, McFadden's yards per tote plummeted to 3.3 a year ago.

Now Olson and head coach need to keep that momentum going by giving Terrelle Pryor the keys to the offense.

Olson told Steve Corkran of Bay Area News Group, "There has to be competition at every position," including quarterback, but there are a couple of reasons why the Raiders are best served making that competition between Pryor and someone else and severing ties with Palmer altogether.

The first is Palmer's onerous salary for 2013. The Raiders are in one of the most precarious salary cap situations in the league, and Palmer is set to make $13 million this year.

That's $13 million for a 33-year-old quarterback with 30 interceptions and a losing record since joining the Raiders.

The Raiders know what they have in Palmer, and that's a league-average quarterback with an above-average salary who personifies the terrible personnel decisions of the previous regime.

Pryor is much more of a mystery. However, as Olson told Corkran, that's one of the things that interests him about Pryor, especially at a time where mobile quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers and the read-option offense are all the rage in the NFL.

"We'd like to find that out," Olson said. "What's different about Kaepernick is certainly that they feel great about him in all areas of the game. They feel great about him as a passer. So he's a guy that plays full time. It's not as if they bring him in for a package or a play or two."

There's another reason not to keep Palmer. The idea of a two-quarterback system and special "packages" almost never works in the National Football League. Gimmicks and gadgets die quick and painful deaths.

It's understandable that the Raiders would be concerned about Pryor's ability as a pure passer. Arm strength isn't an issue, but accuracy and decision-making have been since Pryor was at Ohio State.

Olson admits that there's plenty that the Raiders don't know about Pryor.

"That's what we'll have to find out with Terrelle Pryor," Olson said. "We know what kind of an athlete he is. We need to find out what kind of decision maker he is. We need to find out if he's a guy that can also sit in the pocket and deliver the ball from point A to point B accurately and on time and making the right decisions. That above all else becomes most important."

With that said, Pryor showed enough in one start last year to at least earn a more thorough audition than some practice reps and "package" snaps.

That's not exactly the best way to accurately gauge what Pryor can do, nor is it likely to spur on significant improvement in Pryor's game.

That improvement may not even come. It may well be that Terrelle Pryor, athletically gifted as he may be, just isn't cut out to be an NFL quarterback.

Oh well. So what?

Let's be honest. The Oakland Raiders have about as much chance of winning the AFC West in 2013 as the Cleveland Browns do of winning the AFC North. That's coming from a Browns fan.

At worst, the Raiders rid themselves of a huge contract and find out exactly what they have in a player that cost them a third-round pick.

Best case? Pryor fulfills the potential he showed at times in Columbus, and defenses in the NFL will have another quarterback who runs like a deer to contend with.

At least the Raiders will know one way or the other, and that beats just spinning their wheels.