During the 2013 off-season, Terrelle Pryor began taking serious steps to try and improve his quarterbacking skills. He hired a team of quarterback coaches to improve his footwork and brought in pitching coach Tom House to work on his delivery. He would later credit House for his improved mechanics while admitting "I never really knew how to throw a football before."
During the 2013 off-season, there was another QB restructure going on. The team had let Matt Leinart go and traded Carson Palmer to the Cardinals. They replaced Palmer with Matt Flynn who they acquired in trade from the Seahawks and they headed into OTA's with Flynn as the first team quarterback.
The Raiders would also draft Tyler Wilson in the fourth round and as fate would have it, they signed undrafted free agent, Matt McGloin. The same Matt McGloin who began our story having to walk on at Penn State due to Pryor's late indecision as to which college he would choose.
Heading into OTA's, the depth chart was Flynn, Pryor, Wilson, McGloin. By the end of camp, the only change was McGloin moved ahead of Wilson as third on the depth chart.
In the meantime, Pryor showed up at training camp with a new number -- 2. He wore the number 2 in college at Ohio State and had wanted it when he was acquired by the Raiders, but they wouldn't give it to him due to stigma it held from colossal NFL bust, JaMarcus Russell, having worn it just a couple years before. Apparently the Raiders coaches figured enough time had passed so they let him have the number.
But by the end of the preseason, Flynn was out with elbow tendinitis -- the same elbow tendinitis he suffered the previous preseason in Seattle -- and Pryor replaced him as the starter in the final preseason games. The coaching staff opted to stick with Pryor as the starter heading into the regular season -- giving him the opportunity to become the player many believed he could be.
Things started out reasonably well for Pryor. He completed 65% of his passes in the season opener, throwing 1 touchdown to 2 interceptions. But where he did most of his damage was on the ground where he had 13 carries for 112 yards. In week two against the Jaguars, while they were trying to keep Pryor under wraps, Darren McFadden went off and the Raiders got their first win of the season.
The next game was even better for Pryor. The Raiders lost to the Broncos while Pryor completed 67% of his passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. But late in that game, he suffered a blow to the head and he couldn't finish the game.
He was monitored throughout the week and passed his concussion test on Friday to be in line to start against the Redskins. But come Saturday, he asked the equipment manager if he could use a tinted visor because the light was bothering him. That is a classic concussion symptoms and he was shut down in favor of Matt Flynn who would make his first start as a Raider.
Flynn looked terrible in his one game. He was lost out there. He wasn't sensing pressure and stepping up into the pocket and the result was a disastrous game -- turning the ball over three times with three fumbles and one interception which was returned for a touchdown. A week later, Pryor was back as the starter and Flynn was cut.
In Pryor's return to the starting lineup, he had his best game as a Raider. He threw a touchdown pass on his first play -- a perfect 44-yard strike to Rod Streater up the sideline. Then the next time the Raiders got the ball, he put together a long drive for a second touchdown. From there it was all about the defense. The Raiders scored the next 10 points off turnovers -- a muffed punt resulting in a field goal and a Charles Woodson fumble recovery for a touchdown. The Raiders would win 27-17 over the playoff-bound Chargers. Pryor would finish with a career high passer rating of 135.7.
That high wouldn't last long and it ushered in an abysmal low.
The following week the Raiders faced the Chiefs. Things started out well enough. He threw a touchdown pass to Denarius Moore to put the Raiders ahead early on. The Chiefs would come back to tie it heading into halftime. After that, the collapse of Terrelle Pryor was monumental. He threw three interceptions over the second half, the final one returned for a touchdown to put the Chiefs up by the final score of 24-7.
Amid the interceptions Pryor had against the Chiefs, he was sacked 9 times. The natural thing for fans to do in this instance is to blame to the offensive line. Some of that blame does lie in them, sure. But not all of it. After the first few sacks, Pryor had lost his poise and was fleeing clean pockets. The final four sacks were a result of Pryor leaving a clean pocket and running into trouble. he was rattled out of his comfort zone and it was a chink in his armor teams would continue to use against him after that.
Pryor and the Raiders would then have the bye week to regroup. The following week was another high note of sorts for Pryor. That was the game against the Steelers which provided fans with the biggest highlight of Pryor's career in which on the first play of the game, he went right on a designed run and sprinted through a huge hole to go an NFL quarterback record 93 yards for the score.
Though the Raiders were able to beat the Steelers on that day, that run turned out to be one of the few highlights for Pryor in that game. Darren McFadden would add two rushing touchdowns to finish the first half and the Raiders wouldn't score again the rest of the game. Pryor would throw two interceptions over the rest of the first half and threw for just one first down the entire second half. The Raiders escaped with the win as the Steelers would fall just short and lose 18-21.
The next two games were against the Eagles and Giants -- both losses. Pryor would injure his knee late in the loss to the Eagles. He worked all week on the knee and convinced his coaches he was good to go against the Giants. It became apparent quickly during that game that Pryor was far more injured than he let on. As a result, he had a horrendous game. He went just 11 for 26 (42%) for 122 yards and an interception.
In those last four games against the Giants, Eagles, Steelers, and Chiefs, Pryor had a passer rating average of 42 which is the second worst four-game stretch for a Raiders QB in the past 50 years. The only player to have a worse 4-game stretch? JaMarcus Russell. And after that last game on his injured knee, the coaches weren't taking any more chances.
Enter Matt McGloin.
Now things come full circle. Back to when McGloin and Pryor were both Pennsylvania quarterbacks choosing where to play college ball. Back when McGloin was forced to go without a scholarship out of high school because of Pryor's late decision. Back while Pryor was being handed the starting job as a freshman and getting the star treatment at Ohio State and McGloin was fighting his way from walk-on to record-setting starter as a senior at Penn State. Now after two seasons in the NFL, Pryor was trying too late to learn how to play quarterback at this level. All the while McGloin worked his way up the depth chart to start ahead him as an undrafted rookie.
McGloin took the ball and went out and won his first start against the Texans. He performed well enough to keep the job even when Pryor was back to health a few weeks later. McGloin would start six games in total. In those games he was sacked just six times. Compared to the 31 times Pryor was sacked in his nine starts. That more than a 3 to 1 difference in sacks per start. And it debunked any theories that the fault lied in the offensive line.
It was the Raiders defense that would fail them in the second half of the season. It started when they gave up a record 7 touchdown passes to Nick Foles of the Eagles in week nine and continued throughout the rest of the season.
Several times, the Raiders defense collapsed and gave the game away. Most notably this occurred against the Titans in week 12 and the Jets in week 14. But alas, once again, just like the season before, the Raiders were 4-11 heading into week 17. And again they turned to Pryor to start the finale.
This time the naming of Pryor as the starter didn't come without controversy. Pryor's agent spoke out in the local media saying Dennis Allen was setting up his client to fail. After the incident, the Raiders forced Pryor to hold an impromptu gathering with the media to try and clean up the mess. He apologized for his agent's comments but when asked if he agreed with those comments, he didn't deny it. It was obvious even then that Pryor's agent was speaking on Pryor's behalf.
Pryor didn't fire his agent immediately. He waited a month before doing it. Then a TMZ article came out that stated Pryor said he didn't care about what happened with the Raiders in the future. He took to Twitter to vehemently deny the report which actually only stood to give it more credence by his acknowledgment. He later deleted the tweet. Then as it turns out, he was simultaneously asking the Raiders to trade him. The Young and the Restless.
It wasn't until the owners meetings in March that Reggie McKenzie revealed Pryor made the request to be traded -- a request that had occurred two months before. Pryor said he wanted to go to a team where he had a chance to start. And though that team may or may not exist in the NFL, the Raiders were going to work to honor his request.
For Reggie to make that reveal at the owners meeting was strategic. That's where deals often get discussed between teams. He wanted to drum up some interest in a trade. And he wanted Pryor either traded or released prior to the team's off-season workouts began (that would be today).
Immediately there were reports of at least two teams who had inquired about Pryor. As it turned out those two teams were the 49ers and Seahawks. And the winner of the Pryor sweepstakes went to the Seahawks in exchange for literally the last tradable pick in the draft (247). And even that came as a surprise to most people who expected the Raiders to simply cut him.
In three seasons in Oakland, Pryor went 3-7 in ten starts with 7 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and after some early flashes of potential in 2013, showed serious regression. He showed no ability to read a defense, no pocket presence or awareness, poor decision making, and poor accuracy -- basically the skills required to play quarterback.
He finished his Raiders career with a quarterback rating of 69.3. Every quarterback on the Raiders current roster, including journeyman camp arm Trent Edwards, has better numbers than that. Add the fact that the Raiders are expected to draft a quarterback pretty high, and Pryor was the odd man out even before he actually asked for that honor. A request of which the Raiders gladly obliged.
Thus ending the rocky and polarizing tenure of Terrelle Pryor in Oakland.