There have been many who have been witness to the improved play of Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor of late. Each game he seems to get better and better. The former Ohio State star has come a long way from where he was when the Raiders used a third round pick on him in the 2011 supplemental draft. Some might even say he went from athlete to quarterback.
Even as early as the end of last season when Pryor got his first start, he was an unpolished, mechanically raw athlete with uncertain prospects for his future as a quarterback in the NFL. Over the off-season the Raiders brought in competition by acquiring Matt Flynn in a trade with the Seahawks and spent a fourth round pick on Tyler Wilson.
Since then Pryor has done something nothing short of spectacular - He has made himself into an NFL quarterback. Each game his passing has improved culminating in an impressive performance last week in a win over the Chargers that saw him throw for two touchdowns and begin the game throwing ten straight completions.
What Pryor has done is defy the odds. His progress has not gone unnoticed by those who have seen him over the past few years and see him now. One such observer is former Raiders receiver, Tim Brown.
"I am shocked that this man has come around as quickly as he has," said Brown. "A couple two or three years ago, I covered him with my gig with ESPN and was down on the field and got to stand right by him and could not believe how big this kid was. But then I watched him play and said ‘well, he'll be in the NFL but he's not gonna be a quarterback. He's gonna be a tight end or something' because I saw no NFL quarterback skills at all. He could throw a deep ball but he couldn't throw an out route to save his life.
"I think from that standpoint to see how he has come around in two, three short years is remarkable. And it shows you if you work hard and do what you need to do then things can work out for you. But I'm pretty impressed with him. Hopefully he'll come back this week and keep improving and keep trying to make something happen for himself."
I personally cannot recall a quarterback who was able to remake himself at the pro level. The comparison to Tim Tebow was a valid one because what Pryor was attempting to do was very similar to what Tebow attempted to do with his throwing motion at the pro level. The difference is, Tebow, like many others before him, was unsuccessful.
The quarterbacks coaches Pryor worked with last summer were even the same ones Tebow worked with when he came out of college. And Pryor was able to use where Tebow fell short as a lesson in hard work and perseverance.
"The first time I went there, they said they had [Tim] Tebow there working with him, and he said that he [Tim Tebow] was ready to go, that he looked good, that he wasn't missing anything," said Pryor. "They then said that he went to camp and he reverted back to his old self. And that was the main thing, to stay with your craft and be sure that what you've learned just stays there. That was my key. I hoped that when I was getting rushed that I didn't go back to the old thing. So, I'm very proud of that."
Pryor made the controversial statement this off-season that when he was drafted, he didn't know how to throw the ball. That of course was a bit of an exaggeration if taken at face value but there is also a lot of truth to it. Pryor is very well aware of how far he's come.
"Have I gotten better?," Pryor asked. "Yeah, I've gotten a lot better through a lot of work, and I'm still continuing to get better. During the bye week I'm going to go back to my trainer, and I'm going to get some more work in. It's a non-stop progression. . . There's just so much room for improvement."
Pryor is definitely a rare breed. Finding a player with his combination of raw physical gifts, drive, and ability to pick up things the way he has is something I have certainly never seen. I asked Tim Brown if he had ever seen a player do what Pryor has done and he said absolutely not.
"No, no, no. I've never seen a guy who HAD to do that," said Brown. "I mean, the quarterbacks that I had -- I had a lot of them -- they all had their form but the ball just went a little quicker every once in a while, you know? What he's doing out there is remarkable. He looks comfortable and looks like he knows what he's doing and just has to learn how to protect himself a little bit more and I think he'll be ok."
If Brown is right, quarterbacks like Pryor will be the next wave in the NFL. We've seen flashes of success by quarterbacks of similar size and speed as Pryor across the bay in San Francisco.
"I don't know if you've watched Colin Kaepernick work out, this guy works out like he's a linebacker," Brown continued. "These guys are not the quarterbacks I played with. I never seen a quarterback I played with lift a weight. That's not the case anymore. These guys are getting in the weight room and doing what they need to do."
With players like Pryor, Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Jake Locker, and Robert Griffin III emerging as starters across the league, the spread offense is taking off. Some think it will not last long - Jon Gruden for instance - but Brown doesn't see it that way.
"Yeah, I think this thing will be around for a while," said Brown. "I think it's difficult on defenses. . . I'm telling you it's unstoppable because defensive ends are not used to covering that kind of area. They used to cover the D gap, now with the spread they have the E, F, and G gap they gotta cover and that's just not gonna happen. It's a very difficult thing to stop. The quarterback just has to be smart. There's a time to try and get extra yards but there's a time to slide too."
Terrelle Pryor has gone from just a player who could bring some excitement with his mobility to a player who could actually win games with his arm. And he made that transition in a matter of months. He went from a raw athlete and a long shot to making it as an NFL quarterback to being in the discussion among the new wave of quarterbacks forcing NFL defenses out of their comfort zones.
Remarkable to say the least.