GM: Surprised by Terrelle Pryor

Updated: September 19, 2013, 1:04 PM ET
By Paul Gutierrez | ESPN.com

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie acknowledged Wednesday that he was surprised Terrelle Pryor beat out Matt Flynn to win the starting quarterback job.

"From a standpoint of taking this offense, what Olie (offensive coordinator Greg Olson) has done, yes," McKenzie said. "I mean, he's come in ... to compete and learn this offense, and he's taken it and he's done a good job. I'm pleased. Very pleased."

McKenzie spoke with seven Bay Area-based reporters at the team's headquarters in a half-hour roundtable chat and broached topics ranging from Pryor to team expectations to pending free agents to the need for the Raiders to get the ball more to playmaking fullback Marcel Reece.

The highlights, though, revolved around Pryor, whose work ethic has been uncanny.

"I'm going to give it all I've got until the wheels fall off," Pryor said earlier in the day.

Throughout the summer and most of training camp, though, there was a prevailing thought that the Raiders were resistant to giving Pryor a legitimate shot.

I think he energizes more than just the fan base. He energizes his teammates and anybody that's watching. Everybody likes to see big plays. And he's a big-play guy. So, yes, the fan base, I'm definitely sure they love to see him play.

-- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, on Terrelle Pryor

After all, from the moment Flynn was acquired from Seattle on April 1, it was Flynn who was anointed the presumptive starting quarterback. Flynn was the new regime's hand-picked choice while Pryor was a holdover, the final draft pick of the late Al Davis. But Pryor won the gig outright thanks in equal parts to a sore arm, confidence issues and resultant ineffectiveness by Flynn in exhibition games.

"His arm definitely did not fare him well in preseason," McKenzie said of Flynn.

McKenzie has preached since he arrived from Green Bay that he wants competition and the best player would win out. Or, in Pryor's case, the player who gave the Raiders the best chance for success.

"Regardless, I mean, good players will stay here, point-blank," McKenzie said. "It's not about driving off players who were here and bringing in, you know, our own guys. It's trying to put together a good nucleus and core group of guys and then funnel other players in that can help complement them and put together the best team.

"And whoever plays will be whoever the coach thinks gives us the best chance to win. And that's what it's all about."

Pryor has the Raiders within 8 yards of being 2-0 and was electric in their season-opening 21-17 loss at Indianapolis, rushing for a franchise-record-for-a-quarterback 112 yards while passing for 217 more, though two red-zone interceptions proved too costly. He was more of a game manager in the Raiders' 19-9 defeat of Jacksonville last week as Pryor did not commit a turnover.

"Pryor, he's, in my mind, he's made leaps and bounds from last year, from the time I spent with him," McKenzie said. "He's done a good job."

Asked if there was a seminal moment where Pryor beat out Flynn, McKenzie shook his head.

"Not really a play or anything, it's just more his progress," McKenzie said.

"The guy just comes in, goes to work, from the summer to training camp to each and every preseason game, he's just gotten better and better. I think he's getting more confident, and that just comes with playing. So, just let him play."

Pryor will get that opportunity on the biggest regular-season stage of all --- "Monday Night Football," against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

And Raiders fans have been very vocal about Pryor, who is just as popular as he is raw.

"I think he energizes more than just the fan base," McKenzie said. "He energizes his teammates and anybody that's watching. Everybody likes to see big plays. And he's a big-play guy. So, yes, the fan base, I'm definitely sure they love to see him play."

Especially if he continues to surprise McKenzie.

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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