Pryor is at a crossroads in his young career and is in danger of slipping into obscurity. If McGloin has another solid outing against the Titans, Pryor’s time as a starter in the NFL could be gone for good.
Just six weeks ago, Pryor looked like he could be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Raiders, but his future is now murkier than the waters of the San Leandro Bay.
After beating out Matt Flynn in the preseason and performing well over the first month of the season as a passer and runner, Pryor’s passing production dipped. And this was even before he was sidelined with a sprained MCL, a knee injury which certainly didn’t make things any easier on him.
In many ways, Pryor’s future is in his own hands. Even though he is not in control of who starts, how McGloin performs or what plays are called when and if he gets another chance to prove himself, he is in control of how he responds to going from starter to backup.
Before Pryor can think about reclaiming the starting job, however, he needs to get healthy. He’s been a limited participant at practice the last two days and could be healthy enough to be active on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but even a minor knee sprain can linger.
Getting healthy is undoubtedly the message he’s received from the team. He needs to be able to use his legs to supplement some of his limitations as a passer. Running will probably always be a part of Pryor’s game, just as it is for Michael Vick, and such players typically need healthy knees to be effective.
The Immediate Future
In the short term, Pryor needs to be a good teammate and a helpful resource for McGloin. Sulking isn’t going to help him get back on the field; it has quite the opposite effect.
Although Pryor isn’t 100 percent healthy, he’s effectively been benched. One good game by McGloin wouldn’t be enough to unseat a quarterback who was playing well prior to the injury.
In a press conference announcing McGloin as the starter, head coach Dennis Allen even said, via Oakland Raiders.com, “It’s a production-based business.”
The better players will always play, which is particularly true in the case of the Raiders this year. If money mattered, Pryor would have never been named the starter. McGloin will get his shot, but he’s far from cemented at the position at this point, and Pryor could have some opportunities to prove himself later down the line.
Pryor is a superior runner to McGloin, even when he is limited. Unless McGloin is really torching a defense, Pryor can use his legs to help the team and try to win the starting job back. When healthy, there might not be a handful of more dynamic runners than Pryor in the entire league.
The team's plan coming into the season was to install a package of plays for Pryor that could accentuate his strengths. The read-option was an obvious centerpiece of the package for Pryor that mostly centered on him using his legs as the offensive weapon we now know them to be.
Once Pryor is healthy enough, the Raiders can roll out that package of plays for him, even if McGloin remains the starter. Not only that, but the package can be expanded to include more passing plays.
Pryor is the ultimate chess piece in the never-ending mental game going on between offense and defense on Sunday. As a part-time player, that may be even truer than when he was the starter.
Now that Pryor has some experience throwing the ball, the Raiders could call a play-action pass when the defense will be expecting him to come in and run. The Raiders can also use the Pryor package in the red zone or when it would otherwise be prudent to have his running ability on the field.
There’s no reason Pryor can’t do what he was expected to do coming into the season, but there are other benefits to being a backup. For starters, Pryor should have more time to focus on his footwork and mechanics. If Pryor is going to win the starting job back, improving as a passer is going to be vital.
Pryor can look at his performances over the first four weeks of the season to see what he did well, and he can use the following four to see what he did wrong. As a starter, Pryor’s focus has to be 100 percent on the next opponent. As a backup, he can take some time for personal development.
The Long-Term Future
After eight games as a starter, the Raiders have a pretty good idea of what kind of player they have in Pryor. By all appearances, he’s a hard-working competitor with eye-popping athleticism.
He’s also extremely limited as a passer.
As a quarterback, Pryor has improved since last season, but he hasn’t done enough to prove that he’s the long-term option at quarterback for the Raiders—or anyone else for that matter. Pryor seemed to be improving every week early in the season, but his last four starts have been equally troubling.
Many like to blame the offensive line or the wide receivers, but the reality of the situation is that Pryor just isn’t diagnosing defenses very quickly and has become almost totally reliant on his running ability. This has been true since getting sacked 10 times against the Kansas City Chiefs.
According to spotrac.com, Pryor has one year remaining on his rookie contract worth $705,000. However, he also has a $146,517 prorated signing bonus and an incentive of $61,137 for playing half of the team’s offensive snaps.
Is Terrelle Pryor is a long-term solution at quarterback for the Raiders?
There’s no reason the Raiders wouldn’t keep Pryor in 2014 at that price, unless they could trade him, so he’ll probably be with the Raiders for at least one more year. That means more time and potentially more opportunities for Pryor to prove he is the long-term option at quarterback.
If the Raiders aren’t able to find a franchise quarterback in the draft, through free agency, via trade or on their current roster, they will continue to be in trouble at that position and in need of a guy like Pryor.
It’s possible that Pryor could carve out a pretty nice career as a "backup quarterback/offensive weapon" that can come and play a handful of snaps just to keep the defense honest. Pryor still has time to turn things around and become Oakland’s long-awaited successor to Rich Gannon, but the clock is ticking.