An Oakland Raiders season that was starting to feel like something special, with wins in the books and inspiration and unity following the death of Al Davis, took the ultimate football detour on Sunday—a serious injury to the starting quarterback.
Jason Campbell went down with a broken clavicle and might not take another snap this year. So every reason the Raiders had to believe they were well on their way back to true NFL relevance—Darren McFadden's dominance out of the backfield, a newfound focus and composure under first-year coach Hue Jackson, solid contributions even from much-maligned Davis pick Darrius Heyward-Bey—are now overshadowed by the biggest of football questions: Who's your QB?
After Campbell went down Sunday, it was Kyle Boller, who provided a classically Boller performance. He went an unremarkable 8-of-14 passing for a 79.5 rating, and was doing the same thing you and I were doing during the Raiders' best passing play of the second half—watching as Shane Lechler tossed a fake field goal to Kevin Boss for a 35-yard TD.
Moving forward, Boller cannot be the guy. The guy should be the one who joined the team in one of Davis' last moves at the Raiders helm—Terrelle Pryor, the Ohio State star Davis outbid the rest of the NFL for, spending a third-round pick in last year's supplemental draft.
The reason is simple: talent. You know what you're getting in Boller—a guy who "played like a guy who hadn't had a lot of practice," Jackson told the San Jose Mercury-News.
Pryor, of course, hasn't had a lot of practice either, only rejoining the team this week after serving his five-game suspensions for transgressions at OSU. But he also comes with a skill set many have compared to Cam Newton, a rookie QB who you might have heard is doing okay for himself in Carolina.
And while Pryor has been off the practice field, he has been allowed in team meetings and has reportedly dived into his playbook. Campbell told the Sacramento Bee last week that Pryor was confident and assertive in QB meetings.
"He'll write it on the board—'I think we should do this on this play,' " Campbell said. "So I said, 'What are you, our consultant now?' "
That type of confidence is a big part of leading a winning football team—something Boller hasn't shown he can do. And the other QBs floating around the NFL atmosphere—the Trent Edwardses and Carson Palmers of the world—are out there for a reason, and would be coming in even less prepared than Pryor.
Pryor should get his shot. With the Raiders offense powered primarily by the running game, and the pass-catching corps suddenly looking deep and dynamic, Pryor wouldn't be asked to carry his team. And with the Raiders looking at a bye week after next Sunday's date with Kansas City—a matchup the running game and Oakland defense could take care of by themselves—the time may ripe to start a new era at QB in Oakland.