The Raiders say Terrelle Pryor will be given a chance to compete for the quarterback job. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
It must be extremely tempting for the Raiders.
After watching the wonderful exploits of young NFL quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III last season, they know they have a player with similar physical tools in Terrelle Pryor.
And in his one-game audition in the final regular-season game of 2012, Pryor flashed those tools, showing good running instincts, speed and a strong arm. He was raw and mistake-prone, but he also was a playmaker.
Now, with the team over the salary cap and a big offseason roster reshuffling ahead, it must be tempting for the Oakland brain trust to go all in, cut ties with expensive starting quarterback Carson Palmer and anoint Pryor the starter-to-be for 2013.
The difference, however, is that Kaepernick, Wilson and RG III were considered much more polished passing quarterbacks than Pryor, who often was seen as technically unsound in his time at Ohio State, though he made huge strides in his final season in Columbus, when he completed 210-of-323 throws (65 percent) for 2,772 yards, 27 TDs and just 11 interceptions.
In 2011, as NFL scouts weighed Pryor’s talents, one NFL head coach told Sports Illustrated that “he doesn’t have the mechanics, the throwing mechanics, that he needs.” The coach – who asked for anonymity – talked about Pryor as being a “three-year project” to become NFL-worthy.
Pryor is big and tall (6-foot-4, 233 pounds) and fast and ran a 4.36 40-yard dash time at his pro day in 2011, which would have been the fourth-fastest time among all players at that year’s NFL Combine.
The Raiders took him in the third round of the 2011 Supplemental Draft, and had high hopes that he might, with time, develop into something special.
“He can throw it, he can run with it,” said Oakland head coach Hue Jackson at the time. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s played in big game. He’s another young athlete that we’ll add to the mix that plays quarterback, and we’ll work with him and get this guy to be a good player.”
But is he good enough right now for the Raiders to actually know what they have? Probably not.
Going all in on Pryor right now would be tempting, but it would be a huge gamble. They could strike it rich, of course … but he could also crash and burn.
So, while nobody knows what GM Reggie McKenzie, head coach Dennis Allen and new offensive coordinator Greg Olson are thinking behind closed doors, right now they’re all saying very cautious things publicly.
They’re saying there will be “competition” in camp and that Pryor will be given every chance to show what he can do; that then, and only then, will they make a decision to move him ahead of Palmer, who is now 33.
“We know what kind of an athlete he is,” Olson this week told Bay Area reporters. “We need to find out what kind of decision-maker he is. We need to find out if he’s a guy that can also sit in the pocket and deliver the ball from Point A to Point B accurately and on time and making the right decisions. That above all else becomes most important.”
Still, it must be awfully tempting for the Raiders’ inner circle of decision-makers to look around the league, see the difference young, athletic quarterbacks have made and say, “Let’s do it.”