Nobody handed Terrelle Pryor the starting quarterback job for the 2013 Oakland Raiders; he grabbed it by the throat and took it with his electric performance against the Chicago Bears on Friday night in front of an Oakland Coliseum crowd that has seen enough of Matt Flynn’s one-man crusade to make NFL football less exciting than watching paint dry.
Entering the season speculation suggested Pryor’s best chance to find his way on the field may be at a different position, or on a different team. But after the body of evidence offered in the Raiders’ three preseason games, it would be criminal if the 24-year-old QB isn’t under center for the opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Flynn left the field Friday after throwing two interceptions, recovering his own fumble, and completing three passes. Pryor didn’t need to hear fans in Oakland chanting his name to know this third preseason game was huge for his NFL career, or that he had to make a powerful statement in limited snaps, but the young QB didn’t made a statement — Terrelle Pryor made magic.
In April, Reggie McKenzie spent three draft picks on Rookie Tyler Wilson and Matt Flynn. The GM isn’t vested in Pryor’s success, and wasting draft picks doesn’t look good when a guy who was already on the roster ends up starting, but so what?
Matt Flynn has been weighed, measured and found woefully lacking, all that’s left to be decided is whether Flynn’s still ahead of Matt McGloin, or is worth keeping over Wilson for the final QB roster spot. But that’s for another time, because today is all about the Raiders new starting quarterback, and his name is Terrelle Pryor.
This isn’t about one game. Pryor brought energy and played well against the Dallas Cowboys, when Flynn offered nothing except “ball security”. Flynn quarterbacked one of the worst halves of football ever in New Orleans, and Pryor again gave fans more reason for optimism, even while throwing for only nine yards.
Pryor isn’t going to be a better quarterback than Flynn — he already is.
On a roster desperately in need of playmakers, who used which draft picks on what players couldn’t be less relevant with the franchise suffocating from a lack of sizzle. But if a promising QB can harness his gifts, mature as a decision maker, and maybe just maybe, allow the Raiders to build around a young quarterback for the first time since….
Pryor may well fail, but failing to find out if he can succeed as Raider fans watch a man without a pulse take snaps that could tell us whether Pryor is a legit starting quarterback, that would be reason enough for me to lose faith in the judgment of the current leadership in Oakland.
Cynics see Pryor as Al Davis’ final draft-pick. The old man’s last attempt to prove he was smarter than everybody else by grabbing a celebrated athlete and former high school phenom, one whose NFL career looked in danger of ending without an opportunity to thrive or fail with his own arms and legs.
Terrelle did plenty of thriving on Friday, and after the game Pryor spoke for himself.
I love to throw the ball. I find joy in throwing it. I also find joy in making plays with my feet too. It’s definitely something the defense has to look out for and it opens up a lot of things. But I’d rather throw a touchdown then run it.
If you know his history, it’s no surprise Pryor performed well under pressure. Terrelle Pryor isn’t new, he’s not some one-hit wonder, Terrelle Pryor’s not an accident, and when the lights shine brightest, so does Terrelle.
He led Jeannette High School to its ever first state title, was the two-time Pennsylvania State Player of the Year, he was the 2007 PARADE National High School Player of the Year, MVP of the U.S. Army All-American game, which also named him National Player of the Year.
Pryor was 31-4 as a starter at Ohio State, tying him for second most wins in school history, he led the Buckeyes to their first Rose Bowl victory since 1997, where he was named MVP, and a Sugar Bowl victory were he once again earned MVP, all in just three years of college. Pryor played well in his only NFL start, and nearly led an underdog Raider squad to a win in San Diego.
Yes, he can easily run the 40 in under 4.4, but Pryor’s not some 6-foot-6 running back. Terrelle Pryor’s a winner, he’s highly competitive, and he doesn’t wilt under pressure.
Coach Dennis Allen wasn’t ready to hand the job to Pryor after the game, but Flynn’s stranglehold under center has vanished.
I think obviously we have to look at it. I think when you look at it I don’t think Matt played well in this game. Obviously, I thought Terrelle came in and gave us a spark. I thought he played well in the game. … I’m not going to make any decisions on anything tonight. I want to get a chance to go back and look at the tape and see how things went. But it was obvious that Terrelle gave us a little bit of a spark tonight.
A little bit of a spark?
Fortunately for Raider fans, Terrelle Pryor didn’t ask for the starting job, he took it, in emphatic fashion.
Allen should skip straight to giving Pryor every first-team rep in practice, balancing his read-option plays with the base offense, and the longer he waits, the less prepared Pryor will be when he starts the opener in Indy. Pryor won’t lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl this year, but he’ll make certain Sundays aren’t boring in Oakland .
Raider Nation — welcome to the Terrelle Pryor show.