This is not your dad’s NFL. Gone are the days of players being plugged in at one position with one role and one responsibility. Like the trailblazer he’s always been Al Davis borrowed from John Wooden’s defensive philosophies, grafting basketball principles onto defensive backs. Well here we are some three decades removed and the game of basketball is still having a profound affect on pro football.
Look no further than the position of tight end and you’ll see a very direct link to hoops. In modern football the position of tight end has been transformed from extra offensive lineman to hyper-productive pass catcher. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and one-time Raider Rickey Dudley all came to the NFL with a basketball background. But it’s not just the tight ends. We’re seeing bigger, stronger and faster wide receivers that can simply use their height to win 50-50 balls in the back of the end zone.
You see it’s not just the size and skill set hoops offers in way of making a great NFL tight end or wide receiver. It’s also the very hoops-centric idea of exploiting matchups that makes the receiving positions so valuable these days.
Put a slow plodding linebacker on an athletic freak likes Gates and it’s a bigger no contest than Albert Haynesworth in court on assault charges.
Put any 5’9” corner on Larry Fitzgerald in the red zone and watch that DB’s 45-inch vertical mean less than Donovan McNabb’s contract in Washington.
Which brings us to the newest toy in Al’s collection – Terrelle Pryor.
Now Mr. Davis might think he can make Pryor into a good NFL quarterback. But I’m here to say with his size, speed and athleticism Pryor could be a great NFL tight end. And if that’s not good enough then how about making him a deadly deep threat at wide receiver or a pass rushing specialist off the edge on defense. Or better yet, how about all of the above?
This is the new NFL where guys like Devin Hester enter the league as a below average DB and make their bones as a converted wide receiver with a penchant for making game changing plays on special teams.
Who cares if Pryor never throws for 3,000 yards when he can throw one 60-yard bomb a week in a specialty package?
What difference does it make if Pryor doesn’t have the intangibles to lead an entire team when he’s moving the chains as an unstoppable third-down weapon?
All in all the Raiders only stand to lose more with Pryor as a QB than they’d gain with him playing anywhere else.
On paper the possibilities are tempting. He stands tall in the pocket, has a strong arm and can out-run some DBs in the NFL. There’s no reason not to give Pryor the occasional look at QB. But given Al’s less-than-impressive record of developing talent at quarterback it makes much more sense to sit this one out.
To be sure Oakland needs to think long term at QB. Jason Campbell still has yet to prove he’s going to be able to make that Jim Plunkett comparison more fact than fantasy. However there is nothing that gives any indication Pryor can be the face of the franchise.
In developing TP the Raiders are once again looking to revisit the #2 debacle. Let’s be clear, Pryor is no Russell. Not even close. He’s $30-million cheaper, 60-pounds lighter and light years ahead in work ethic. The similarity will be in how one player’s development will hold the franchise hostage. Wins will be put on the back burner in exchange for letting Pryor learns the ropes.
That philosophy doesn’t jive with Al’s impatient nature. If this team is headed to the playoffs it won’t be with Pryor under center.
So why not stick to those hoops principles by letting a natural athlete with an inherent athletic advantage exploit the lesser foes that face him week in and week out? That makes a lot more sense than trying to bust a McDaniels and fit a square peg into a round hole at quarterback.
Topics: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured, Albert Haynesworth, Antonio Gates, Devin Hester, Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell, Jim Plunkett, John Wooden, Josh McDaniels, Larry Fitzgerald, Rickey Dudley, Terrelle Pryor, Tony Gonzalez