For the final game of the 2012 season, the Raiders skipped over No. 2 quarterback Matt Leinart and started second-year man Terrelle Pryor, who was No. 3 on the depth chart.
Could that be a signal that Leinart’s stop in Oakland might be a one-and-done deal?
Pryor, in his chance to play in the season finale against the Chargers with starter Carson Palmer hurt, performed relatively well in his first NFL start.
He was shaky at times and occasionally inaccurate, but he showed a strong arm, good running ability and did lead his team to 14 points in the fourth quarter in a 24-21 loss in San Diego. Pryor completed 13-of-28 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 49 yards and another score.
Leinart, meanwhile, had a chance to show the Raiders what he could do the week before in Carolina when he took over early for Palmer, who was knocked out of the game.
Unfortunately for the former USC Heisman Trophy winner, he threw for just 115 yards – most on short flares and screens – with an interception.
In that 17-6 loss to the Panthers, he looked rusty and hardly a quarterback the Raiders might count on if Palmer were out for any length of time.
Leinart, who just completed his seventh NFL season, signed a one-year deal with the Raiders in May. It’s possible that the Raiders may have seen enough positives from Pryor to pencil him in as the No. 2 QB in 2013 behind Palmer, who is almost certain to return.
Going into the 2012 season finale against the Chargers, Leinart and Pryor were going head-to-head to compete for the start. In the end, head coach Dennis Allen decided to go with Pryor, to see what he could do in his first extended playing time as a pro.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove at this point of my career,” Leinart told the Associated Press going into the Chargers game. “No matter what the naysayers say, I do feel like I can still play. I do feel like that, and I think I’ll play like that until the day I retire. But you’re only given so many opportunities in this league.”
And, in his opportunity against the Panthers, Leinart certainly didn’t impress.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp – since fired by Allen – was disappointed in Leinart’s play.
“He didn’t play as well as I would have liked,” Knapp said. “I wished his footwork would have been better on a consistent basis. … He struggled a little bit with the footwork and his consistency. He had it sometimes, but not all the time.”
Leinart had been happy to play for Oakland this season, rejoining his former USC teammate Palmer. And, when the season came to an end, he sent out a message of thanks on Twitter, writing: “Thanks to all the Raider nation for supporting us this year! We appreciate and love you guys! #bestintheleague”
As the Raiders make decisions on their roster over this offseason, however, it now seems possible that Leinart could be headed elsewhere in 2013.