It is a common talking point of Terrelle Pryor’s fans that he is the last personnel decision that the late great Al Davis made. With a third round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft, Davis elected to pick Pryor from Ohio State University, not long after he reportedly missed out on Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the draft.
Over the last decade, Davis had become a figure who was ridiculed and mocked for having let the “game pass him by.” With the emergence of Pryor, the so called “experts” are starting to reevaluate their stance on the greatest owner in sports history. Pryor may just be starting out, but he has impressed many around the league with his improved ability in the passing game.
Coming into this season, no one (including myself) thought the former Buckeye would be the starter in the season opener. I have to admit I’m thoroughly impressed with the improvement that Pryor has shown so far. He looks very comfortable when he has room in the pocket and has improved pocket presence.
When he gets flushed out of the pocket he is very good at keeping his eyes downfield and has often found receivers while scrambling (honorable mention Rod Streater). His throwing motion needs a little more work, but he is generally getting consistent with his windup. Now he does have certain things that he really has to work on. Things like going through his progression, reading defenses, footwork in the pocket, game management, and making better decisions especially in the read option plays. For a third year quarterback to have these problems is not a good sign, but given the improvement that Pryor has shown in the last twelve months earns him a shot.
In next year’s draft, there are potential franchise quarterbacks that await the Oakland Raiders. The question will be if they will need them at that point. Terrelle Pryor has this year to prove he is the Raiders’ signal caller of the future. Failure to do so will leave another blemish on one of the greatest football figures’ legacy.
Al Davis was known as a visionary. He helped merge the two leagues into the present day NFL, and without his contributions the league would not be what it is today. In the 2001 draft, Davis selected Marques Tuiasosopo. Tuiasosopo was a mobile quarterback, not in the mold of Michael Vick, but mobile nonetheless. Davis had a mantra that speed could not be taught while football skills were teachable. Translating that at the quarterback position, he correctly diagnosed where the league was headed given the faster defensive players.
Having a mobile quarterback who could pick up crucial first downs is beyond valuable, in the National Football League it is the difference between a win and a loss. For those who don’t remember Tuiasosopo, he got injured in his first start and never fulfilled his promise. Looking back at that pick, I was amazed at the foresight that Al showed. Even in Rich Gannon, Davis showed his affinity for mobile quarterbacks. In Pryor, Al had finally found the guy who could bring his vision to life.
While I commend Davis for predicting the direction of the league, I don’t think he saw the read option becoming a staple in the NFL because as Rich Gannon said, ” There aren’t any old running quarterbacks in the league.” The gimmicky nature of the read and the running part of the pistol formation exposes the quarterback to a lot of punishment and I think Davis would have seen the writing on the wall. After losing Gannon to a career ending injury, I just don’t think Davis would have advocated for exposing the quarterback to the ill-willing defensive players.
Those who rip Al Davis for failing with JaMarcus Russell are hypocrites, because in 2007 there weren’t any doubters who wouldn’t have taken him first overall given the opportunity. I personally was hoping the Raiders would take Calvin Johnson, but it wasn’t meant to be.
There were many more misses — like Fabian Washington right before Aaron Rodgers, Robert Gallery right before Larry Fitzgerald — but every franchise has gone through periods when they miss on draft picks. I personally blame Michael Lombardi for most of those misses. Lombardi was the top personnel man for the Raiders from 1998-2007. After his departure, the Raiders started to make better draft choices although the pro personnel side was still lousy. Al Davis does shoulder some of the blame as owner, but I don’t think he deserves to be excoriated the way he has been by the national sports media.
Pryor was the last decision that Davis made in regards to the draft and for that reason the lanky quarterback will always be tied to him. Pryor may be Davis’ last chance at salvation, but if we knew anything about Al Davis we’d know that he didn’t lose sleep over what others thought of his Raiders, all he cared about was winning.
The greatest owner in professional sports uttered only one phrase: “Just Win Baby.”