Terrelle Pryor to Raiders: Is He More JaMarcus Russell or Donovan McNabb?
Even well before the Oakland Raiders selected Terrelle Pryor in the third round of the NFL supplemental draft, comparisons between the former Ohio State quarterback and many other players in the league were flying fast and furious.
How about JaMarcus Russell and Donovan McNabb?
Russell, the Raiders first overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, and McNabb, the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round, and second overall, pick in 1999, couldn't be more dissimilar professional quarterbacks.
But they have some commonalities in their overall careers.
Both played athletically and were mobile quarterbacks. They lead their teams to impressive victories while in college and generated enough buzz to go extremely high in their respective draft classes.
Pryor, also a decorated collegiate athlete with impressive quarterback mobility, could have gone in a similarly high spot in the 2011 draft were he eligible, and were his character not such a liability.
Between the two quarterbacks, however, I believe it is McNabb he resembles much more closely.
For one, Russell is a bust. Many factors contributed to his lackluster career, but greed and laziness top that list. Once Russell got his payday (a six-year, $68 million contract with $31.5 million guaranteed, after missing all of training camp on a contract holdout), he failed to develop into the starter he was paid to be.
Russell was unwilling to put in the work necessary to have a long-term, successful NFL career. His goal was a large paycheck and a spot on an NFL roster—what came after was of no interest to him.
I don't see this happening to Pryor. He will not be seeing anything close to the kind of payday that Russell received, and he is well aware that he must show he has a great work ethic after all of the hits his character has taken in this past year.
This is his chance to prove that while he appeared greedy and lacked ambition in college, he has learned from these mistakes and is able to move on.
Russell serves as a cautionary tale for any rookie quarterback entering into the NFL on a tidal wave of buzz and expectations, and it is a history that won't repeat itself any time soon with Pryor.
Indeed, it would be fairly safe to assume that the Raiders are well aware of the damage another Russell would do to their organization. If they saw that potential in Pryor, I do not believe they would have drafted him today.
Instead, Pryor's career will more likely resemble that of McNabb's, though with a few caveats. One is that he plays for the Raiders, a team that always feels like it is in a state of restructuring. One of McNabb's greatest advantages has been that he provided a noticeable measure of stability for the Eagles, even with a rotating cast of receivers around him.
Pryor will have to be a stabilizing factor on a team that feels perpetually in flux; if he can handle that type of leadership and responsibility, he could ostensibly provide a platform upon which the entire Raiders organization can safely build.
All incoming NFL quarterbacks learned—or should have learned—a lot from the story of JaMarcus Russell, and should know how to avoid his mistakes.
Pryor would be well-served to pattern his trajectory along the lines of McNabb, not just in playing style, but also the way he approaches both the game and his role on his team.