Monday, reports have Terrelle Pryor as the Raiders starting quarterback for their season opener against the Colts on September 8. This opinion was formed before the news of Pryor starting became known.
I'm really not sure how we got here.
For months and months I've been staving off what seems to be the most loyal group of fans in football — the Terrelle Pryor fan club.
I defended Carson Palmer (rightfully so) and I stuck up for Matt Flynn (probably with shades of optimism) — both while withstanding the onslaught of terms like "hater" and "idiot" being thrown my way. But while this has nothing to do with caving to pressure, and everything to do with what might be a moment of throwing up my hands in disgust and saying, "why not?", I'm ready to say it: Terrelle Pryor should be the starting quarterback for the Raiders on Sunday.
Before you stop reading, however, I want you to hear me out.
The ironic part in all of this is two-fold: first, he's coming off his worst performance of the preseason and second, I'm the same guy who wrote this piece just a few weeks ago. But we're getting too far ahead of ourselves, so lets start back at the beginning.
Last season, Carson Palmer was the best quarterback the Oakland Raiders had and it wasn't even close. While the reports from the team were positive about Pryor's work ethic and commitment, the second year kid out of Ohio State simply wasn't ready to throw footballs with the big boys.
Of course, members of the fan club will remind us quickly of his only start — a 24-21 loss to the Chargers in the final week of the season — and say that was all the proof they needed to assure themselves that Pryor was ready. Then again, they'd have to overlook a 13/28 passing line against a sub-.500 team, but who's checking?
So the Raiders enter the off-season knowing that Palmer is on his way out. The team is Pryor's, right? Not so fast.
Clearly convinced that Pryor wasn't the guy they wanted to bet their jobs on, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen went out and got Matt Flynn from Seattle to be the team's starter. All the talk initially was about a competition, but once camp opened, it was obvious that Flynn was the presumed starter. Add into the equation the addition of fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson, and suddenly, the real competition seemed to be for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Fast-forward to the present day and it's easy to see how quickly things have changed.
For starters, Wilson became the highest drafted player to be cut — not good for a team with more holes than answers. Then there's Flynn, who missed the team's fourth preseason game with an injury.
For Flynn, the preseason started off perfectly — with Pryor struggling and Flynn seemingly placing a stranglehold on the starting job. In the first two games this preseason, Flynn was 16/21 for 161 yards and hadn't thrown a single interception. In the third game, however, Flynn was 3/6 with two interceptions.
Pryor, on the other hand, has shown flashes of inconsistent brilliance throughout the preseason, capitalized in the third game.
While Flynn was floundering, Pryor put together his best game yet — going 7/9 for 93 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 37 yards and a touchdown. Then Pryor came plummeting back down to earth in the team's final preseason game.
So is Pryor the better quarterback? You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I still believe the answer is no.
If we rephrase the question, to say, "Is Pryor the better quarterback for the Raiders right now?" — then my answer changes.
My reasoning is simple:
For starters, this team is a mess. The offensive line is a mess, the receivers are a mess and the defense is a mess. In a situation like that, the need for a quarterback who can run and create offense all by himself is all the more important. This team no longer needs a quarterback to limit mistakes — at the rate the defense is giving up points it won't really matter — they need a quarterback who can keep them in games.
Secondly, if not now, then why is Pryor still on the roster?
After making the painful decision to cut their fourth-round pick, my thought for McKenzie and Allen is simple: either fish or cut bait. Either give this guy the starting spot, or stop wasting a roster spot on someone you don't believe in.
The difference between Flynn and Pryor clearly isn't as drastic as it was last season, so why not throw him out there and see how he responds and grows as a starting quarterback in the NFL? What's the worst that could happen?
This team is destined for the top of the 2014 draft no matter who lines up under center, so the team might as well see if they've got a quarterback they believe in on the roster.
Finally, and probably least importantly, why not give the fan base something to be excited about? Flynn isn't flashy and he isn't a sexy pick at quarterback — he's conservative, safe and bland. For most teams, that's appealing compared to a wild card like Pryor. For the Raiders, though? Not so much.
This is a team with almost nothing going for it, so why not add a little spice into the mix and put a guy out there who, sure, will make his share of mistakes, but will also give fans something to talk about on Monday morning — "Did you see that one play?!?!"
I never thought I'd say it, but here I am. I, Jeff "hater" Spiegel, think it's time for Terrelle Pryor to be the starting quarterback in Oakland. I think he deserves at least four weeks in control to see what he can do — and honestly, I think he could make it in this league.
He won't be a star, but he'll make the team competitive and exciting. And at this point, I think that's all the Raiders could ask for.