During the course of the 2013 NFL regular season, the Oakland Raiders have been given something unfamiliar: hope. Despite dropping to 1-3 after four weeks, the Raiders have received encouraging play at quarterback.
As the source of Oakland's reason for confidence, quarterback Terrelle Pryor deserves to be named the Raiders' long-term starter.
When a second-year quarterback is impressing everyone who watches him play, it seems rather self-explanatory that he deserves the starting job. Unfortunately for Pryor, we're talking about a Raiders organization that has been reasonably skeptical since the JaMarcus Russell debacle.
That means the Raiders are still looking for answers in spite of Pryor's strong play at quarterback.
Josh Freeman is a fine young athlete, but Pryor should be Oakland's man.
Oakland has reason to be skeptical, as Pryor has just six career appearances at quarterback after being drafted in the 2011 supplemental draft. In that short time, every unbiased fan and analyst who has watched the Raiders play has been thoroughly impressed.
Why give up on the Pryor era before it starts?
Signs of Progression
After his first three starts of the 2013 NFL regular season, Pryor has 624 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Pryor has also run for 198 yards through three games, which displays his duel-threat abilities.
Pryor's numbers have almost been as impressive as his leadership.
Pryor's aggressiveness and creativity have been infectious throughout the Raiders offense, as he routinely makes plays with both his arm and his legs. He nearly led an upset at the 4-1 Indianapolis Colts during Week 1 and played very well against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 3.
It was a lopsided 37-21 loss, but Pryor sparked a never-say-quit attitude and went off for 281 yards and a passing touchdown on 19-of-28 passing. In years past, the Raiders would've turned a 27-7 halftime deficit into a reason to give up.
Pryor kept them aggressive.
Oakland may not be winning many games, but if there's one position that it can be comfortable with, it's quarterback. Pryor is only 24, but he's already displaying a veteran's poise in the pocket and the dynamic athleticism that Oakland had been hoping to receive from Russell.
It hasn't been perfect, but for the first time since Rich Gannon was under center, the Raiders have hope at quarterback. Why jeopardize this progress?
As previously stated, the Raiders are reportedly interested in acquiring the recently released Josh Freeman. Oakland also has a high-paid backup quarterback in Matt Flynn, who many expected to be the starter before the season began.
The numbers offer an early illustration of which quarterback should be starting.
Freeman was in a very unfavorable situation with the dysfunctional Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Flynn had a tough Week 4 matchup. That doesn't change what the numbers say or alter the fact that Pryor has displayed signs of being a franchise quarterback.
There just wouldn't be enough of a short-term improvement with Freeman under center.
For those unfamiliar, Pryor is a 6'4" and 233-pound quarterback who can run the read-option or work from under center. Freeman is a 6'6" and 248-pound quarterback who has the athleticism to run but prefers to stay in the pocket and work with his powerful arm.
Pryor is 24; Freeman is 25. Pryor uses his explosiveness to catch defenses off guard and run for big gains, getting down before taking hits, while Freeman has four career rushing touchdowns.
I believe that Freeman can be a very good NFL quarterback in the proper system, but Oakland just isn't the right fit.
The other option would be for Oakland to draft a player such as Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville or Brett Hundley of UCLA. Things could change over the course of the next six months, but at this point in time, there doesn't seem to be any logic in taking an unproven commodity over a young player who's flashing signs of brilliance.
After years of uncertainty, it's time for the Raiders to settle down with a quarterback. The team will only grow as its leader does, and thus far, Oakland seems to be responding well to the former Ohio State Buckeyes star.
Until that changes, the Raiders need to make a long-term commitment to Pryor.