Exactly How Bad Was Terrelle Pryor?

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Nov 10, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) reacts after being called for intentional grounding during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Terrelle Pryor’s 2013 season as quarterback for the Oakland Raiders was a rough one to say the least. How rough might you ask? It was almost as bad as Derek Carr’s 2014 season. Or almost as good, depending on how you look at it. The fact of the matter is the gap between these two players’ performances is much smaller than their respective narratives might suggest.

Heresy! Sacrilege! How dare that statement even be entertained!

Before too many heads explode, we’ll jump straight into the starting point for the comparison. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has done a full play-by-play analysis of each QB for the entirely of the seasons in question. To be clear, these are not statistics, they are grades. PFF has a very detailed grading system which takes context and true responsibility into account on every single play over the course of the season (higher grade the better).

Derek Carr (2014) Terrelle Pryor (2013)
PFF Overall Grade



PFF Pass Grade



PFF Run Grade



According to these grades Terrelle Pryor was actually the BETTER quarterback for our beloved Raiders. It somewhat matches up with Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA rating for both teams. In 2013 Oakland rated -16.7 in offensive DVOA. With Carr at the helm in 2014, offensive DVOA dropped down to -19.4.

How can that possibly be? Certainly the good folks at PFF and Football Outsiders must have watched the same games we all did, right?

If we look at Football Outsiders QB rating metric, DYAR, or ESPN’s Total QBR, the situation looks closer to what our eyes told us over the course of the season.

Derek Carr (2014)

Terrelle Pryor (2013)

Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replecement (DYAR)






What is to account for this disparity? How does one reconcile the different stories told by these metrics?

To start with, the PFF grades require a trained analyst to watch the game and grade each play against a defined criteria. Obviously this presents some level of subjectivity. Football Outsiders DYAR is closer to a comparative average, a calculation of the numbers. While it’s not without subjectivity (obviously there’s some subjectivity in deciding how to weight each aspect of the formula), it’s not dependent on someone with a sharp eye and football knowledge deciphering what they see on the game film. ESPN’s Total QBR’s complex formula hasn’t yet been publicly released and suffers from major controversy – most notably when Tim Tebow’s off-the-bench 4 for 10 for 90 yards performance in Week 5 of 2011 scored higher than Aaron Rodgers’ 26 for 39 for 396 yards and two TDs in the same week.

So what’s the actual story here? Who was truly the more valuable quarterback? For that answer, it would be prudent to examine the run game and the pass game separately, seeking to differentiate the quarterbacks’ comparative performance from the performance of the players around them and scheme involved. From there we can extrapolate each quarterback’s respective value to the team and make a fairer judgment.

First up, the passing game.

Next: Passing Analysis