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Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Choose hot hand, not sore knee

By Paul Gutierrez

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- These are choppy, if not downright treacherous waters Dennis Allen is about to wade into for the Oakland Raiders.

A full-blown quarterback controversy could be debilitating for a young and relatively inexperienced team under a young and relatively inexperienced coach. Especially with -- and no, this is not a typo -- the Raiders sitting pretty when it comes to a potential, gulp, playoff spot.

Because if the season ended today, Oakland (4-6) would be the No. 8 seed in the AFC's six-team playoff field, one game behind the No. 6 New York Jets (5-5) and No. 7 Miami Dolphins (5-5), and would own tie-breakers over 4-6 teams in the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers.

Pryor
McGloin
Too soon to start scoreboard watching? Perhaps.

“What I'm going to emphasize to the team is pay attention to the process, don't pay attention to what the end goal is or what the end result is,” Allen said. “If you pay attention to the process and you pay attention to what's going on, on a day-to-day basis, practice-by-practice, game-by-game, those end results will take care of themselves.

“If we practice well enough, we meet well enough. If we play well enough, the goals that we aspire to have at the end of the season will be there for us.”

Especially since three of the Raiders' final six games are against the Titans (Sunday at home), at the Jets (Dec. 8 ) and at the Chargers (Dec. 22). In fact, there are eight teams at either 5-5 or 4-6 in the AFC and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time since 2007 that only five teams in a conference have had winning records this late in a season.

Parity, or parody?  Either way, the Raiders' remaining six opponents have a combined winning percentage of .600, second-highest among those eight teams.

Then how does Oakland avoid a QB controversy while trying to separate itself from the logjam? By sticking with the hot hand, and not forcing the issue with a sore knee.

Yes, by starting Matt McGloin, who threw three touchdown passes without an interception in Sunday's road win against the Houston Texans, and letting Terrelle Pryor, who has been picked off eight times since his last touchdown pass, rest and get his sprained right knee healthy.

This is not to say that McGloin is better than Pryor, per se. But with McGloin under center, rather than an ailing Pryor, the Raiders can go back to the offense they initially planned to run under Matt Flynn to start the season while using specific packages for Pryor and his unique skill set.

Oakland had to change the offense to fit Pryor and it appears as though it has been found out by defenses, knee injury or not.

Sure, there were fits and starts under McGloin against the Texans to the point of only two third-down conversions in their final 15 attempts, and he was helped out by getting the ball twice at Houston's 16-yard line.

But there did not appear to be any trouble getting the play in on time, or moving the offense to the line of scrimmage out of the huddle.

In fact, it behooves Pryor to sit out until he is completely healthy -- he was not completely honest with the coaching staff entering the New York Giants game, and it showed in his ineffectiveness -- and/or until McGloin plays his way out of the job.

Allen has said time and again his job is to make decisions that give the Raiders the best chance to win. The best way entering game No. 11 is to avoid a QB controversy by making a pick early, and sticking with it.

And after the past two performances, it seems McGloin is the choice ... for now.