When the season started, many analysts and media heads had predicted the Raiders to finish the season at the bottom of the league yet again and assuring themselves of the number one pick in next years draft. Now, with the season at the half way mark, many of those same media types are reluctantly eating their words and are giving the Raiders credit for their efforts on Sundays. A big part of that credit goes to the defensive side of the ball, where they are currently ranked in the top ten. Another reason that the Raiders are on the cusp of .500 at the half way point is Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor has come on to the scene in Oakland and has energized the fan base with his electric play and more so his athleticism. Proof of that is his record setting 93 yard run this past weekend against the Steelers. Those that still doubt Pryor will also point out to his woeful 10 of 19, 88 yard passing performance in the same game. Now, don’t get me wrong, Pryor is still a work in progress and has many more growing pains to endure before we hear Ron Jaworski label him greatest QB ever. However, considering where he came from and the potential that the fans see on the field, it’s quite possible that Oakland could already have their future quarterback already under center.
This year will mark Pryor’s third season in the league and so far he has been able to get six starts this season. He is essentially playing his rookie campaign this year. If you put that in perspective and think of it in those terms, Pryor hasn’t done bad. Unfortunately for him he is playing in an age where a starting quarterback is expected to come in, master the playbook, and lead his team to the playoffs. He can thank the impact of Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson for that. A lot of what the QB learns can not be simulated in practice. It takes real game time speed and getting real pressure on you to see what you’re made of as the offensive leader.
Speaking of leadership, it’s clear that the team has accepted him and rally’s around him as their offensive leader. He also brings a level of maturity to his game. You have yet to hear him blame the coaches, the other players or the football gods for his bad performances. On the contrary, all that Pryor has talked about in the teams losses has been how he has to get better and the ownership of his mistakes. Even before the season started, Pryor sought out improvement and found the services of throwing guru Tom House. During the Raiders bye week, Pryor again sought out House for more tutelage and mentoring. Pryor strikes me as a guy who wants to get better and isn’t afraid to take criticism if it helps him and the team. I have yet to see him kiss his biceps, pull out the Superman logo, or cover up his NFL issued attire because of his other sports contracts. He simply doesn’t strike me as a diva.
Keep in mind that Pryor did not get the starting job handed to him, he earned it. In the third preseason game against the Chicago Bears, he came in and took over the game. In that game he accounted for two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and went 7/9 after coming in for an ineffective Matt Flynn. His performance that game forced Coach Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie to reevaluate him and his potential. What also helped Pryor’s cause in that game was the offensive line was beginning an injury bug that is still playing out today. Pryor’s mobility and the lack of a healthy offensive line made him the clear starter on opening day. Aside from suffering a concussion against the Broncos and having to sit out against the Redskins the following week; he has had the reins as the starting QB and each game has been a learning experience for him. Since becoming the starter, he has racked up 1149 passing yards, has five TD’s and seven INT’s, and currently has a QBR of 77.2. As for his rushing ability, he currently sits as the the leagues best rushing QB with 391 yards on the ground. Those numbers aren’t going to earn him a Pro-Bowl Spot but they are on par with what a typical rookie might put up.
On the flip side, there are also plenty of other things that make Pryor a liability to the team. For one, he needs to learn to manage the game clock better. I don’t know whether it’s the coaches fault or Pryor’s fault; but too many times this season, the team has been caught with their backs against the play clock and are either forced to take a timeout or the penalty yards. Also, I’ve noticed that he still tends to stare down his primary receiver, which clues in the defense as to where he is going. His footwork could also use some help as we have also seen him stumble on plays at times. As for his throwing, he still underthrows the deep pass at times and his inaccuracy has led to picks. These faults are all things that you would normally see in a rookie QB. As I said before, this is essentially his rookie year.
Overall, Pryor is doing all that he can to keep him and the Raiders competitive on game days. At times he looks like the only player that is trying (dropped passes, injured O-line, runs that go nowhere) and other times he has looked like the guy that wants to do too much and that has led to mistakes. I think with a healthier O-line, he and the rest of the offensive side could be much improved and hopefully those mistakes will start to dwindle and the offense will start to move. In the coming weeks that O-line should get some injured players back and we’ll have to see from there.
I think with all the things that Pryor has had to overcome and the progress that he has made in this first half of the season, he could be the franchise QB that this team has not seen since Rich Gannon. Other pundits will argue that his negatives are too much to overcome and will tell you that the team should take their chances in next years draft. To those people, I will leave you with this data and let you decide for yourself.
Since 2011, when Pryor came into the league via the supplemental draft, there have been 34 QB’s drafted. Of those QB’s, only 15% of them have had success on the field as starters (Andrew Dalton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson). Furthermore, if you throw out the anomaly of Luck, RGIII and Wilson all being successful after being drafted in 2012, that 85% goes up to roughly 94%. I don’t know about you, but if 85% of the QB’s drafted do not have success in the NFL coming out of college; I will play the odds and say that I am more than comfortable keeping Pryor as the teams starter and seeing what happens next year.
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