After the way the Raiders quarterback carousel has been going since Rich Gannon led the Silver and Black under center, it is no surprise that on day one of the Raiders 2013 mandatory minicamp that the quarterbacks got much of new head coach Dennis Allen’s criticism in what was a practice session to be forgotten in the coach’s mind.
“Today’s practice really, at the end of the day, what we got to continue to work on is the consistency,” Allen said. “I thought at times we executed well. We made some plays both offensively and defensively, but the consistency with which we have to execute on a day-in and day-out basis we have to continue to work on.
That consistency will be the key focus leading up to training camp and the preseason as the Raiders will be under Allen’s reins for the first season in 2o13 as well as under offensive coordinator Greg Olsen. With Greg Knapp and Hue Jackson calling the plays in the past two seasons before Olsen, the Raiders will now be going through their third OC in as many years. Hard to develop consistency when new concepts and philosophies seem to be changing more often than the menu at Taco Bell.
Yet the confusion and growing pains Tyrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn showed was glaring, something that is not a positive sign for a team that is building the future of their quarterback position on two former college stars who are still unproven up to this point in the NFL.
Little to no completions were made during the first day of minicamp. Batted balls, and miscommunication between route and throw between Flynn/Pryor and their wideouts were the commanding theme. There is tons of time, but with an intense competition to replace Carson Palmer as the starting quarterback of a rebuilding franchise between Flynn and Pryor who both are looking for their big break in the league, neither of the two are standing out from the other.
Despite the pressure cooker environment of the battle for the starting quarterback job on a team with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, none of the parties involved in trying to restore the struggling franchise seem to be overly concerned.
Coach Allen was by far the quickest to stress that the process in getting ready for training camp and the first preseason game is a marathon and not a sprint. Driving home that in the quest for consistency, he will not allow himself to get dismayed by some bumps along the way during the road to the start of the season.
”I don’t allow that to frustrate me,” Allen said. ”I understand where we’re at in the season. I understand that we’ve got a lot of new pieces, a lot of new guys working together and I don’t concern myself with that. I know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but the way our guys are working, we’re going to get where we need to be.”
Flynn, who is one year removed from losing his starting quarterback job to Russell Wilson in Seattle in what was supposed to breakout year for the former LSU quarterback, echoed the sentiments of his new head coach while also admitting that he does want to come out and practice at the highest level possible each time he steps onto the field, even at minicamp. ”Each and every day we’re going to want to come out and complete every pass and throw 10 touchdowns,” Flynn said. ”But realistically right now everyone is still learning, everyone is learning each other, everyone is learning a new playbook. Things are coming. Things are formulating. But we have a long time until game one.”
You couldn’t blame Flynn for wanting to come out with a strong performance all throughout the minicamp and training camp leading up to the preseason given the circumstances of his career. A national champion with LSU, Flynn was Aaron Rodgers understudy at Green Bay before heading to be the starting quarterback in Seattle after a much hyped saga about which team was going to land the now 27 year old who was considered to be by far the best non-starting quarterback in the NFL in most circles. Flynn famously lost that starting job to Wilson and the rest is history and what brought Flynn to the Raiders. Allen says Flynn is his starting quarterback, but you couldn’t blame him for feeling some cautious pressure given how last year’s preseason turned out.
Pryor, is quick to dismiss any notion of a rivalry between himself and Flynn and is playing up the good backup role as he should, yet finishing the Raiders season off with a strong game against the Chargers last winter you know that he is hurting to get his case for the starters job heard. Pryor started the season finale a year ago when Palmer was hurt and went 13 for 28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 24-21 loss to the Chargers. He also ran for 49 yards and a touchdown, showing what made him so great at Ohio State in what he had hoped to be a successful one game audition for the role of Raiders starter this season. Instead the Raiders nabbed Flynn, hoping that he can show why he was so close to being a starter in Seattle and Pryor is fine with that.
”It’s still a long time before even the first preseason game,” said Pryor. ”So, that talk is nonsense. It doesn’t matter right now, as long as we’re helping each other, and we’re getting better and building team chemistry. That’s the main thing, working with each other. Right now, not knowing who the starting quarterback is going to be and who’s getting talked about, that’s the thing that’s not very important right now, to me.”
With six weeks until training camp and around three months until the beginning of preseason, there is plenty of more time to focus on this issue. For now the quotes and comments coming out of Raiders camp have the feel of a combination of Allen trying to motivate his quarterbacks to elevate their performance of the offense at a higher level and an easy minicamp story that was eventually going to be tackled at one point or another. Mix in excuses like that no-pads on the linemen take getting adjusted to and an offensive session where both quarterbacks looked mediocre and you have yourself a very good narrative to start an integral, yet bland aspect of the offseason.
It seems that all parties involved in the structuring of the offensive system of the new look Raiders are not going to let a rough day at the office in front of the media and ever so judgmental gaze of the cameras get them distracted from the big picture. At the end of the day the Raiders have two former stars of the college game as the building blocks of the rebuilding of their offense and have plenty of offseason time to perfect things before the games actually matter. If Allen, Flynn, Pryor and co. aren’t panicking, neither should anyone else.
Quotes provided by the Associated Press.