Pryor's Improvement is One of NFL's Best Stories

Rise of Raiders QB has surprised doubters and impressed coaches and teammates

Aside from all being highly touted, first-round draft picks, what do quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III all have in common?

Each is below Terrelle Pryor in the quarterback rating statistics, five games into the 2013 NFL season.

Not bad for a player some talent evaluators never believed was polished enough to ever succeed as a professional quarterback.

Now, Pryor is becoming one of this season’s best stories.

Said former NFL GM Bill Polian, on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” Monday, a day after Pryor was terrific in leading the Raiders to a win over the Chargers: “He’s improved more than any player I’ve seen.”

In Sunday night’s 27-17 Raiders victory, Pryor’s QB rating was 135.7, the highest by a Raiders quarterback since Rich Gannon’s 138.9 vs. the Titans in 2002. Pryor completed 18-of-23 throws for 221 yards and two TDs with no interceptions and ran 11 times for 31 yards. And, on the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage, Pryor connected with Rod Streater on a 44-yard TD strike.

For the season, Pryor ranks No. 8 in the NFL in quarterback rating at 97.6, ahead of Stafford (94.9), Luck (94.1), Cutler (93.0), Vick (90.6), Bradford (85.7) and RGIII (85.5). He’s also far ahead of that celebrated quarterback across the bay, Colin Kaepernick (81.9).

Pryor has four TD passes vs. two interceptions, has completed 68.3 percent of his throws for 845 yards and has rushed for 229 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Since winning the quarterback job this summer, outplaying projected No. 1 Matt Flynn, Pryor has showed steady improvement in guiding his team to a 2-3 record. Now Flynn has been released and the Raiders -- who play the 5-0 Chiefs in Kansas City Sunday -- suddenly find themselves with a young quarterback who is showing signs of becoming a possible franchise-type player. 

Now, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen says Pryor is “leaps and bounds ahead of where we thought he’d be at this time.”

Though Pryor was an acclaimed quarterback at Ohio State, his success for the Buckeyes was based primarily on his terrific, raw skills rather than his passing ability. But after the 2012 season, Pryor spent time with former baseball pitcher Tom House, who has coached several NFL quarterbacks – including Tom Brady – on throwing mechanics.

For Pryor, it was a big breakthrough.

“I never really knew how to throw a football before,” Pryor told the Bay Area News Group this summer. “It’s coming along. I’m getting way better.”

The result has been far better accuracy, such as on his throw to Streater for the touchdown vs. the Chargers.

Raiders first-year offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who watched film of Pryor in limited action last season, says Pryor in 2013 is a completely different quarterback.

“I feel like he’s a lot calmer in the pocket,” Olson told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “His footwork is much better, he has better instincts. He just looked like a rookie player in there last year.”

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