Exactly How Bad Was Terrelle Pryor?

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December 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) passes the football during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Eyeball Test

Just watching Terrelle Pryor in the passing game was borderline masochistic. More often than not, he looked rattled in the pocket, unsettled, tentative, and far too willing to lower his eyes for the scramble. When he threw the ball it was often difficult to tell if the universal cringes were more from his sloppy throwing mechanics or the ridiculous amount of air he put under the ball, begging defenders to snatch it out of the air.

Contrast that with Derek Carr. He looks like an NFL quarterback in the pocket. Upright, solid throwing platform. Shuffle-steps forward as he (theoretically) goes through his progressions. Powerful compact throwing motion, and balls that look like a cannon shot from his arm. It seems like a no-brainer, right?

The Breakdown

(All numbers drawn or derived from Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted)

The big numbers are seemingly clear. Terrelle Pryor threw 7 touchdowns and 11 interceptions – prorated to 11.2 TDs and 17.6 on a 16 game season (Pryor only really played 10 legit games). Derek Carr threw 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (Though many call out his luck with blown interceptions).

Carr threw for 3,270 yards on the season. Pryor only threw for 1,798 yards, which even falls below Carr when prorated to a full 16 games at ~2,877 yards.

It’s little more complex than that, however. Carr had 599 pass attempts to Terrelle Pryor’s 272. This puts Pryor at a non-negligible advantage when it comes to yards per attempt. Pryor wins the YPA battle at 6.6 to Derek Carr’s 5.5. In fact, Carr was the only QB in the league in 2014 with more than 25% of the team snaps to finish the season under 6 yards per attempt passing.

Many of Derek Carr’s critics have referenced Oakland’s hyper-conservative scheme with inflating his passing numbers and his accuracy. In 2014, Oakland ran primarily short passes & flat routes, with Carr favoring the short middle, particularly short crossing routes, and sideline comeback or out routes. Then there was Carr’s brilliant back-shoulder throw (which is legitimately elite). Looking at the numbers for both quarterbacks, there doesn’t actually seem to be much difference in what they were asked to do.

Passing Attempts by Depth (% of total attempts)

Carr (2014)

Pryor (2013)

Behind LOS



0-9 Yards



10-19 Yards



20+ Yards



The numbers are extremely similar, none more than a percentage point or so off from one another. Indeed, Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen used a very similar passing scheme between both quarterbacks – designed to give them easy reads and high-percentage route options to built their confidence.

Comparatively, Derek Carr actually had the better offensive line protection – despite the injuries and player swaps constantly plaguing NFL teams. Football Outsiders ranked the Oakland Raiders 3rd overall in pass protection in 2014 with an Adjusted Sack Rate of 4.4%. In 2013, Oakland ranked 28th at 8.5%.

To be fair, Carr deserves some credit and Pryor some blame for their offensive line ratings based on how long they held onto the ball. Carr tended to make his passes much faster, averaging only 2.61 seconds after the snap to his throw versus Pryor’s excruciating 3.47 seconds. Clearly Pryor’s hesitation and tendency to scramble got him in some trouble here, but it also benefitted him (as will be discussed on the next page).

Their accuracy numbers are very similar as well. PFF’s accuracy rating (which paints a clearer picture than completion percentage by subtracting dropped passes, throwaways, batted passes, hit while thrown, etc.) places Terrelle Pryor below Derek Carr, but not by much. Carr accurately delivered a catchable ball 69.4% of the time, while Pryor’s accuracy falls just a notch below at 68.3%. Remember, this is accuracy on the quarterback’s account, it’s unrelated to whether the receiver caught the ball (not that either QB had an advantage in their receiving corps).

Terrelle Pryor and Derek Carr suffered heavily throwing under pressure. Both quarterbacks saw their NFL QB Rating drop into the 50s when facing pressure and saw their yards per attempt drop, as to be expected. Yet it’s without pressure where Terrelle Pryor actually shined brighter than Derek Carr. When facing zero pressure Pryor’s yards per attempt went up to 7.3, while Carr’s YPA hovered closer to his overall average at 5.9.

The numbers seem to vindicate the PFF passing grade thus far. Running a similar passing game with comparable pieces around them, the QBs are fairly even. While Derek Carr clearly had a better interplay with his offensive line and got the ball out much faster than Terrelle Pryor, he falls behind in efficiency – especially when facing no pressure of any kind. The biggest knock possible on Pryor is his high interception rate, which is not to be ignored or belittled. At the end of the day however, the difference between a three and out and an interception can be smaller than one might imagine.

There’s another huge key here which might help explain Pryor’s advantage in yards per attempt, and overall grade bump by PFF. His running ability. The breakdown follows on the next page.

Next: Running Analysis