The question on many fans minds with regard to Terrelle Pryor is how much time should he be given before it's enough to properly evaluate him? The Raiders have that answer; it ends Sunday when he gets the start against the Broncos.
This start will be Pryor's tenth as a Raider, his ninth of the season. He has been with the Raiders for three seasons. So, three seasons with NFL tutelage and ten starts is, by this coaching staff's estimation, enough to properly evaluate their young quarterback.
"This will be his ninth opportunity this year, he's got one more opportunity to show what he's capable of doing," said Allen. "I do think that there's a talented player there and a guy who needs to continue to work to develop. I think we've gotten a pretty decent evaluation on him, but we're gonna get another shot to watch him on Sunday."
It's important to reiterate for some; Pryor is not a rookie. He's not even "basically" a rookie. He is a third-year player in a league where it was at one time commonplace for players to ride the bench their first couple seasons. He has now had the better part of this season as the starter as well as the final game of last season. Leading up to this, he had two seasons to learn the intricacies of the NFL game and to fine tune his mechanics. It's now or never.
"We've got a pretty good feel on Matt McGloin," said Greg Olson. "We've got a good feel on Terrelle, but let's see now that Terrelle's had a chance to sit and watch a little bit, let's see how he'll play this weekend and then we can make a decision on the future."
Though the coaches have seen enough to evaluate Pryor's game, his development is key. There are still some things they would like to see him show some improvement if he is to be in the team's plans moving forward.
"Playing the position, the timing, understanding that's a big part of it," said Olson of the things he'd like to see from Pryor Sunday. "We went from 33nd in sacks per pass attempt to 2nd in the league in sacks per pass attempt over the last six weeks. So, I think just the whole understanding of the timing of the passing game. He still has the ability to run but he gets mixed messages, I think. He gets the ‘you've gotta show that you can be a pocket passer' and that takes away from his game. You just gotta sprinkle in a little bit of both. We'd still like to see you use your legs as the explosive athlete that you are but when there's times there we've got guys open, the ball needs to get out on time and get out accurately, and go from there."
This may seem like a lot of pressure to put on Pryor to have his career in Oakland come down to this, but is it that much different than any other game in the NFL with a young hopeful trying to prove he can be a starting NFL quarterback.
"Every game's a big game," Olson continued. "It's no different, I think Matt McGloin faced the same pressures on every game he played just as Terrelle did early on in the season. Every game's a big game in the National Football League, especially if you're not an established starter, if you're not an established player in this league. You've got something to prove on every snap and every series and every game. That's part of playing the position. Obviously coming into the season the position became unsettled and so we have an unsettled quarterback situation here. I'd like to believe that they look at it as a great opportunity for me to come in and prove that I can play and I can be that guy for this team."
The other lingering questions about Pryor's performance this season have surrounded the health of the offensive line as well as Pryor's health. The offensive line was in flux much of the season due to injuries, including not having Jared Veldheer at left tackle. It only recently looked healthy. Pryor is also fully healthy. Add the fact that the Broncos have one of the worst defenses in the league and there is no reason to think Pryor isn't being put in a position to succeed should he have it in him to make it happen.
And no, whether he wins or loses will not be the sole judge of Pryor's performance just as it has never been the true judge of McGloin over the past six games. Whether the defense is able to stop Peyton Manning and the Broncos top offense is another story apart from the evaluation of Pryor.
Pryor had one of his better games of this season against the Broncos when the met in Denver in week three. He threw for 281 yards completing nearly 68% of his passes with a touchdown and no interceptions, resulting in a 112.4 passer rating. Now, we will see if that performance is more indicative of his talents or his performance in his 42 passer rating in his last four starts.
That's why this game will be a big deciding factor in his future in Oakland.