It lasted four games and it was fun, but the days of Terrelle Pryor looking like the Oakland Raiders' long-term option at quarterback are gone. Four games gone to be precise, but it took a month for confirmation.
On a windy Sunday in New Jersey, Pryor successfully erased all the hope and optimism he brought to the Raiders during the early part of the season. The Raiders lost 24-20 to the New York Giants because of Pryor's poor passing performance—his fourth in a row.
When Pryor was named the starter in Week 1, he had 16 games to prove he was the long-term answer. After eight starts, Pryor hasn't proven anything.
With just seven games left, he's just about out of time.
The plan was always to give Pryor the season to see what he could do. If he failed, the Raiders could draft a quarterback in 2014. If Pryor did well, the Raiders would have the luxury of building around him instead of replacing him.
For four games it looked like Pryor was taking advantage of his opportunity, completing 68.3 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns with just two interceptions. Pryor seemed to improve steadily each week and was avoiding turnovers.
There was never any doubt what Pryor brought to the field athletically as a runner, but he had to develop as a passer if he was going to be a franchise quarterback. Raider Nation was understandably excited after his first four starts yielded positive results and a 2-2 record.
Unfortunately for Pryor, the Raiders and the fans, four games is a small sample. Defenses would learn how to slow Pryor down if he didn't take advantage of them through the air.
The Kansas City Chiefs exposed Pryor in Week 6, but there was no reason to hit the panic button after one game against the best defense in the league.
The Raiders had a bye in Week 7, giving Pryor a chance to regroup. They beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-18 after the bye week, but Pryor was only 10-of-19 for 88 yards passing with two interceptions. It was a bad sign when the Raiders got very conservative in the second half and the Steelers got back into the game.
The wheels really started to come off for Pryor when he threw two interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 and completed barely over 50 percent of his passes for the third consecutive game.
Pryor had clearly regressed, and he was the most to blame.
Is Pryor the long-term answer at quarterback for the Raiders?
Again on Sunday, the offensive line didn't do Pryor any favors, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson probably didn't help his struggling quarterback either.
In Olson’s defense, there's not a lot that can be called when the quarterback is struggling as much as Pryor. You can't run on every play, and an offensive coordinator should be able to trust his quarterback to get two yards on 3rd-and-2—particularly one like Pryor, who can also use his legs.
Excuses could be made for Pryor's first three poor performances: The offensive line gave Pryor no time in Kansas City, he didn't need to pass against the Steelers, and he was playing from behind against the Eagles.
But there was really no excuse for his play against the Giants.
At best, Olson should have called run plays instead of pass plays because Pryor was struggling. But it’s tough to blame an offensive coordinator for not going to the extreme to scheme around a quarterback playing poorly, and there was no guarantee different play calls would have yielded more favorable results.
The other excuse for Pryor’s poor play may be injury. He said he has a sprained MCL and was "very sore" after the game, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. The problem is that every player is expected to perform regardless of injury.
You might also say Pryor's ineffectiveness on the ground exposed him even further as a passer. Pryor completed just 42.3 percent of his passes for 122 yards and turned the ball over twice against the Giants. In the process, Pryor missed several open receivers and demonstrated virtually no pocket awareness.
The other problem with using injury as an excuse is that it highlights why many people think running quarterbacks won't last in the NFL. As you may recall, Washington's Robert Griffin III sprained his LCL last year before tearing his ACL. Griffin hasn’t been the same since and hasn’t run as much this season.
The injury factor has not been brought up much when discussing if Pryor is a long-term option, but perhaps it should be. Pryor missed a game with a concussion sustained on a running play against the Broncos. He now has a knee sprain that limited him to a season-low 19 rushing yards against the Giants.
Incremental improvement worked early in the season, but that needed to continue with very few setbacks. Pryor has had four setbacks in a row now, and incremental improvement isn't going to be enough.
Without a few giant leaps forward over the final seven games, Pryor isn't the long-term option at quarterback for the Raiders. Asking a guy with a sprained MCL and below-average supporting cast to make a few giant leaps is probably asking too much. It’ll be even harder if Pryor can’t stay on the field.