Terrelle Pryor Unable to End Raiders' Quarterback Controversy

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIAugust 30, 2013

Terrelle Pryor Unable to End Raiders' Quarterback Controversy

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    With the preseason down to its final game, the Oakland Raiders gave Terrelle Pryor a chance in Seattle to make a push for the starting quarterback job.

    It was a game of mixed results for Pryor, as he fights an uphill battle to unseat Matt Flynn. A look at the numbers shows Pryor completing fewer than half of his passes (3-of-8 for 31 yards with a pick) but the numbers also show Pryor running three times for 48 yards.  

    Going into this game, it was expected that Pryor would have to prove himself rather than just survive to be the starter for Week 1.  

    On that note, let's take a closer look at the quarterback controversy in Oakland.

Why Pryor Played Good Enough

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    In terms of scoring, Pryor failed to get the Raiders into the end zone, but he did lead Oakland down the field for two first-half field goals.

    As far as ball security, Pryor was intercepted once, but he also showed his ability to run and keep plays alive.

    Considering how poorly Matt Flynn has led the offense in his preseason showings, it would be hard to say Pryor was worse than Flynn. In fact, it is just about impossible to say that.

    Flynn was ranked by Ron Jaworski as the worse starting quarterback in the NFL, and after Flynn's preseason performance, "Jaws" may have been right.

    It would have taken something drastic for Pryor to be taken out of the discussion to start the season opener in Indianapolis.

    It must be kept in mind that Pryor has been getting far fewer practice reps with the starting offense and that trend continued in the four preseason games.  Despite that disadvantage, Pryor is still pushing Flynn.  Just imagine if Pryor had been given equal practice and playing time with the starting unit.

    Numbers aside, Pryor has natural, athletic abilities that separate him from Flynn.  Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he wants playmakers, and Pryor is certainly more of a playmaker than Flynn.

Why Pryor Didn't Play Good Enough

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    One could argue that, despite the playing-time disadvantage, Pryor still failed to separate himself from Flynn.  As noted in slide above, Pryor still had an opportunity to make a move up the depth chart with a quality performance against Seattle. But instead he completed fewer than half of his passes and was intercepted once.

    Since the time Flynn was acquired in a trade, the starting quarterback position has seemingly been his to lose, even if nobody within the Raiders officially declared him the starter.

    The playbook that new offensive coordinator Greg Olson brought to Oakland consists of mostly short timing routes—plays designed to benefit a passer like Flynn, whose arm strength is nothing exceptional. 

    Starting Pryor in Week 1 would put him in a scheme that wasn't designed for him. But Pryor's stronger arm could still stretch the field and present more big-play opportunities than if Flynn were under center.

    Pryor has been an underdog on Oakland's depth chart since he was drafted by the Raiders in 2011.  The Raiders have done seemingly everything to not start him in a meaningful game.  His lone start came at San Diego in Week 17 last year, when the Raiders were merely playing for their spot in the draft and bragging rights against their division rivals.  

    Pryor played a very average game at Seattle, and considering how much the Raiders brass has tried to bury him behind Carson Palmer and even Matt Leinart (who started Week 16 last year), it would have taken a much stronger showing from Pryor to cement himself as the Week 1 starter.

After Further Review

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    There were two strains of thought about Pryor heading into the final preseason game: One notion was that all Pryor had to do lock up the starting job was to just secure the ball and not make mistakes. The other perspective was that he would have to have a terrific encore to his fine performance against the Chicago Bears in Week 3.

    At Seattle, Pryor walked the tightrope between the two sides.  While Pryor didn't have a great game, he still managed to lead the offense to two field goals. Still, the Raiders failed to reach the end zone, and Pryor did have an interception.

    At the end of the day it seems that Pryor is a better fit to be the Week 1 starting quarterback.  Oakland's offensive line can't protect a pocket passer like Flynn.  The Raiders need a mobile quarterback, and Pryor is one of the fastest and most athletically gifted players at the position.

    If nothing else, turning to Pryor now will excite and energize a franchise and a fanbase that has endured more than a decade without a winning record.