ALAMEDA – Terrelle Pryor is the Raiders starting quarterback. This week, anyway.
The 24-year old's tenure could be much longer, maybe permanent, if he plays well with the first unit in Thursday’s exhibition finale at Seatttle.
It’s an interim designation because coach Dennis Allen won’t officially name a starter until the game week preceding the Sept. 8 opener against Indianapolis. Even that seemed a stretch last week, when Matt Flynn was firmly entrenched as the defacto starter.
Then Friday happened. Pryor gave the Raiders life in an exhibition against Chicago. Under Flynn, the Raiders flatlined.
Pryor pulled even, maybe even ahead, in a race not expected to be close.
There is no quarterback controversy this week because Matt Flynn is out with elbow tendinitis, the same ailment that sabotaged his effort to be the Seahawks' starting quarterback last season.
Now it’s pushed Pryor to the forefront, and has given him his first real chance to run the first team. It’s also a golden opportunity for Pryor to take hold of the starting job and never let go.
Pryor has longed to be an NFL starting quarterback, and he’s ever so close to earning the title. Pryor won't let himself get excited. He knows he’s not there yet.
“Every day I’m getting one percent better and I won’t stop until I get to my goal,” Pryor said. “That’s my goal, to be a starting quarterback and to lead a team to wins, wins , wins. I won’t stop until it happens. I think about the possibility every day. Until it happens and keeps on happening, I’ll keep on pushing myself toward that goal.”
Pryor seems a good fit to start on a team that has trouble protecting a traditional passer and has fleet-footed receivers with big-strike capability.
“I think when you have guys who have athletic talent like he does and they work as hard as he has, guys are going to get better, and he’s improved,” Allen said. “It’ll be a good thing to see him in another game situation against a really good Seahawks defense on the road in that environment and see how he responds.”
The Raiders want to see how Flynn plays without elbow soreness, but Allen didn’t use it as an excuse for Friday’s poor performance. Flynn threw two interceptions, fumbled a snap and got shut out in four series.
“Well I think it’s hindered him a little bit,” Allen said. “I don’t think it’s been a major factor when we’ve gotten into games. I just think it’s one of those things that we’ve got to manage, and I don’t want to make it out to be any bigger of an issue than it is. It’s something that we felt like we needed to do; give him some rest. That was a decision that I made.”
Flynn’s absence serves an ancillary purpose. It allows the Raiders to get a good, long look at Pryor as a starter. Pryor showed an ability to improvise with his arm and his feet. He showed improved decision-making and blitz pickup.
Despite those improvements, Pryor was admittedly far from perfect.
“I made some plays, but at the same time there are a lot of things I felt like I did wrong,” Pryor said. “I have to clean up some things, particularly my run fakes. I was horrible, and that’s unacceptable. The running backs should be mad at me right now because I just didn’t do a great job at ball fakes after the handoff.
“There are things that I know I can get better at, and I will. It’s definitely an experience some of the things that I’ve learned through the game. Just get better at that and try to do the best that I can.”