Inside the Terrelle Pryor decision

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
10:35
AM ET
Multiple news outlets are reporting that Terrelle Pryor, not Matt Flynn, will open as the Oakland Raiders’ starting quarterback this season. This is no shock, and I have long stumped for this outcome. Some thoughts:

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Greg TrottOakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor provides some versatility the Raiders were lacking with quarterback Matt Flynn.
McKenzie goes with Al Davis' guy: General manager Reggie McKenzie is having trouble identifying quarterbacks. He traded for Flynn (and gave up two picks and guaranteed him $6.5 million this season) and drafted Tyler Wilson in the fourth round. Wilson was cut and -- in a damning statement by the rest of the league -- was not claimed. He is now a practice-squad player McKenzie spent a fourth-round pick and a $450,000 signing bonus to get. Instead, Pryor gets the call. Pryor was a third-round pick of the 2011 supplemental draft. He was the final draft pick Davis made, as Davis died less than two months later. Pryor often said he forged a close relationship with Davis. Now he has the chance to restore the pride to the franchise that was the passion of Davis’ life.

There were hints: We shouldn’t be stunned by the decision to start Pryor. Flynn came down with a “sore arm” after a poor preseason performance. Coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olson had been talking up Pryor lately. After a lackluster performance by Pryor in the preseason finale, Allen said he was looking beyond statistics. He said he was looking for how a quarterback moved the team. Pryor can be dynamic with his feet, much more so than Flynn.

Don’t expect miracles: I’ve been on board with starting Pryor for weeks. Let’s see what he can do. But it would be naive for the team or for Oakland fans to think they are going to get a Colin Kaepernick effect. Pryor is a work in progress. He is still inconsistent as a passer, although his accuracy has improved and he is a diligent worker. But there will be growing pains.

The Marquette King theory: King beat out veteran punter Chris Kluwe because of his potential. On a rebuilding team, going for youth over a marginal veteran is always a smart idea.

The lesson of Flynn: I wonder whether teams around the league will look at Flynn’s career and allow it to affect how they think about backups in the future. After being a backup in Green Bay, Flynn has starting jobs in two different cities in the past year. Sometimes a backup is just a backup.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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