OK. First things first. I know damn well that it’s almost impossible to mention the name “Terrelle Pryor” on this site or anywhere in Raider Nation without creating a schism. Some believe he walks on water, others can’t see him ever becoming an NFL franchise quarterback.
The title itself should suggest where I stand on this debate, however, hear me out for a bit no matter where you stand on the debate.
The NFL is changing at the quarterback position. This isn’t exactly a controversial or new opinion. There have always been quarterbacks who were dangerous scrambling and making plays on their feet – Randall Cunningham and Steve Young immediately come to mind. When Michael Vick was drafted in 2001, many thought we were entering the age of the true dual-threat quarterback, the guy who was as deadly on his feet as with his arm.
As it turns out, while we may have been a bit hasty at that point, that prophecy is coming true as we speak. In the last two years, we’ve seen Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson drafted and make an instant impact in the league as both passers and rushers. Even the more traditional pocket passers who have been drafted recently have to be able to get out of the pocket and make plays with their feet – Andrew Luck is an example of this.
With the rise of these guys, offensive co-ordinators are also becoming smarter. Vick was in many ways stymied in Atlanta by being forced to run a West Coast offense when he was in his athletic prime before injuries and off-field stuff became a factor. The Falcons offensive team never really made an effort to build an offense that fit his strengths, just figuring that he could use his feet to escape trouble when it was convenient and necessary.
Those days are gone. First came the Panthers adding a read-option wrinkle to their playbook for Newton and using him as their primary goal line threat. This year, we’ve seen both the Redskins and 49ers utilize pistol offense sets for their mobile QBs. I’m a huge fan of the Pistol to the point where I believe you could definitely build an NFL offense around it – but that’s for another article. Read option, on the other hand, is a bit more gimmicky (Carolina definitely overused it at times this season) but as a wrinkle for a few times a game it can be deadly effective.
As other teams around the league see the success these guys are having, it’s going to make them want to get their own guy who can run this style of offense. I’m willing to bet that if any quarterback rushes up the draft board this draft season it’s gonna be a dual threat guy like FSU’s E.J. Manuel, who has a game that’s not to dissimilar to Kaepernick coming out of college.
All this is nice, but what does it have to do with the Raiders? Simple. While other teams will be hunting for dual threat quarterbacks, we have one already on the roster in Terrelle Pryor.
Now, I can hear the cries already. “All those guys are as good from the pocket as on the run.” “Pryor can’t throw the ball.” “It won’t happen because DA hates him.”
I’m not even going to address the last one because I think it’s ludicrous, but let’s consider everything for a second. Yes, it’s true that Pryor is not (from what we’ve seen of him) the passer that the Newton/Kap/RG3/Wilson group are. That said, if you watched the SD game and think he’s another Tebow I got a mountain chateau in the Netherlands to sell you.
Pryor probably doesn’t have the pinpoint accuracy of a RG3 or Wilson, but what he does have is a strong arm when he lets it fly. That pinpoint accuracy is most important when you’re playing in a West Coast offense – which we are not anymore. I don’t know what exactly our offense will look like this year (no matter who’s at quarterback) but my guess is that it’ll be a power run-based offense with more vertical throws. Pryor has a hell of an arm when he lets fly – don’t be fooled by his floated passes. He himself said those were more because he wanted to be as accurate as possible with the short throw Knapp WCO.
Not only that, but when a team has a QB who can run makes easier for RBs to pound the ball. We only need to remember the Tebow season in Denver – more than anything, the reason why they were so effective was because the threat of Tebow running forced defenses to focus in on him and drew attention away from their running backs which allowed them to run for more. Revolutionary concepts, I know.
Next I want to address the injury question. A lot of people who may like Pryor are concerned as to whether a running quarterback’s body can hold up enough to allow a team to build around him as a franchise guy. Of course this is a legitimate concern, especially when you consider what injuries have done to Vick and how banged up RG3 got in his rookie season. However…Vick is 6’1” and 215, Griffin is 6’2” and 220. Terrelle is 6’4” and 235. He’s more able to deal with getting hit by big defensive ends simply because he’s a bigger unit. Cam is 6’5” and 235, he’s had nary an injury concern through his two year career. Ultimately, as we saw with Carson in the Carolina game, quarterbacks (or indeed anyone on a football field) can get injured at any time. It’s the nature of the game.
I know by now everyone’s gonna assume I’m a Kool-Aid drinker. I’m reading too much into one game. Whatever. The fact is, if Carson is the guy next year we won’t improve much. Maybe by virtue of having a better defense we can get to 6-10 or 7-9. Hardly where we want to be. If Terrelle succeeds, our ceiling as a team is so much higher.
Of course he could turn out to be way over his head and we flop miserably. In that case, we go into the 2014 draft looking for a franchise quarterback. Unlike this year, there’s some legit talent at the position next draft. Johnny Football will be eligible, so will Teddy Bridgewater from Louisville – and someone else could easily make a run up boards as well.
At this stage, I ask Raider Nation – after the past annus horribilis, what do we have to lose? Either we have the next Tim Tebow or the evolutionary Michael Vick or something in between with Terrelle. But we, as fans, have a right to know what we have in him and DA/Reggie/Olson have a responsibility to find out.