Dennis Allen didn’t dance around the topic. Reggie McKenzie spoke about it openly during this disappointing season.
The Oakland Raiders need leaders in the locker room.
As much as I’d love to keep throwing Greg Knapp under the blame bus even I know that without the right men in positions of leadership this franchise won’t be going anywhere other than back to the top 10 of the draft every year.
Rolando McClain was expected to be a future leader as a top 10 pick who played middle linebacker.
Carson Palmer was traded for with the expectation he’d be a franchise QB.
Richard Seymour was given a healthy contract with the hopes he’d bring a winning pedigree to Oakland.
On all accounts all three of the above mentioned have come up short in some degree. Obviously McClain being the worst offender of all. Palmer’s poor play in critical moments has overshadowed his team-first approach. As for Seymour, though a future Hall of Famer his fiery nature has gotten the best of him at times thus putting his personal agenda ahead of the team.
What the Raiders need is someone who plays a position where leadership is expected that will step up and be the vocal leader in the locker room as well.
While we await for that such person to emerge there is at least one brave soul willing to toss his name into that hat.
Terrelle Pryor has just one start in his two years in the NFL and while he still has plenty to work on he’s at least saying all the things you’d like to hear from a young QB.
Pryor’s lone start showed plenty of promise while also raising a few more questions. One thing that most no one questioned was his role as a leader when things got dicey during the season finale in San Diego.
When Mike Goodson got into it with Takeo Spikes it was Pryor that came rushing in to pull his running back out of the pack. That move alone showed that Pryor is a young man with his head in the game at all times. It also echoed what he said to Steve Corkran in his postseason sit down interview.
“I think this team needs leadership, whether it’s multiple guys leading or two or three guys. We need it. You look at all the top teams right now going to the playoffs. They have leaders, great leaders on offense and defense, maybe multiples. I think leadership is key because the guys are going to follow and get energy from a certain guy. You have to be able to lead and they have to believe that you’re always in the game.”
While Pryor made his share of mistakes against the Chargers he did earn some praise from the men in his huddle. Once such man was Khalif Barnes who made a point to find Pryor and give him some props on the plane ride home to Oakland.
“What made me feel good was when Khalif Barnes came up to me after the game on the plane and was like, ‘You did a great job. Got us in and out of the huddle. Sometimes you mumbled out the plays and you weren’t sure, but you jumped right back on it and were like, OK, this is the play. You had us upbeat. You were moving us, had us excited, had some energy. He said, ‘I love that.’ And he said, ‘You were talking to defensive guys when they were about to go on the field, and their eyes snapped and they all paid attention to you. They were all alert when you were talking. As soon as you started talking, they were looking right at you. They didn’t even listen to the coaches, giving them details on the next series.’ That’s footsteps, and that’s a blessing that guys look up to me and have energy from me.”
Now keeping in step with Pryor’s approach he wouldn’t explicitly say whether or not he should get a chance to compete with Carson Palmer for the starting job next year. He also said how much he’ll miss Greg Knapp. All in all Pryor seems to always say the right things.
Whether or not he can develop into not only a quality NFL quarterback or a true leader remains to be seen. However we all saw a spark in Pryor that was largely missing from the Raiders this season. He deserves a chance and hopefully the coaching staff won’t be as stubborn next year as they were this past season.