Following a lack of execution at the quarterback position on Sunday, Raiders fans from Oakland to Sri Lanka clamored for Matt Flynn to be cut and Terrelle Pryor to be set free downfield.
Pryor, who will be a free agent following the 2014 season, has shown respectable growth as an NFL quarterback, as the supplemental draft pick is sporting an 86.7 quarterback rating while rushing for nearly 200 yards in three starts this season.
Growth aside, the Oakland Raiders need to ask themselves some very important questions: Is Pryor the quarterback of the future? Is he the one capable of bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Oakland? Is his upside above that of Zach Mettenberger? Or David Fales? Or Aaron Murray?
It’s too early to say ‘yes,’ but it’s likely there are other players available that will outperform Pryor in the future. And it’s plausible that, despite the marriage between Raiders fans and Pryor, the Raiders could score big, between the 2014 draft and $70 million in projected salary cap wiggle room.
The deepest positions in the early rounds of the 2014 draft remain to be seen, but if all appearances are correct, it’s at quarterback.
A.J. McCarron, who has led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a pair of championships is currently projected to be drafted in the third round. Texas A&M’s Johnny “Football” Manziel, 2012’s Heisman winner, is being projected to go anywhere from the second to the fourth round.
And those are the guys near the bottom of the top 15 prospect list.
Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Tajh Boyd (Clemson) and Brett Hundley (UCLA) are the top three prospects according to Walter Football, which is a leading draft resource.
The projected $70 million in cap room the Raiders will have to re-sign their own free agents and shop for difference makers makes knowing whether Pryor can win a Super Bowl — with the right cast around him — more important by the day.
But if the picture isn’t clear come draft day, it should be out for Pryor and in with the new.
Not to knock Pryor, but there’s no way Oakland’s front office can afford another losing season. Not if the front office wants to stay employed.
If Pryor proves he is that guy, he needs receivers better than what he has now. With Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Jeremy Maclin and Doug Baldwin all set to hit the market, Oakland could become incredibly potent.
If receivers Marqise Lee (USC) or Sammy Watkins (Clemson) were available when the Raiders hit the clock, those would be names to add.
The fact is that there’s no reason the Oakland Raiders shouldn’t be a winning team in 2014. Absolutely none.
They have what appears to be the best defense per-dollar-spent already, so why not spend a little on offense. Bringing back Brandon Myers surely wouldn’t hurt, either.
But all of this is 100 percent contingent on what the team decides to do under center. Teams don’t win Super Bowl’s on offense without truly great quarterbacks.
So is that Pryor?
Despite Raider Nation seemingly married to the idea that Pryor is truly great, he just isn’t. He is good. He is overachieving, hard-working and magnificent under pressure. But not great.
Great is Tom Brady, a guy who can take a receiver group absent of veterans, then turn them into consonant professionals. Aaron Rodgers is truly great. Peyton Manning. A franchise without a truly great quarterback can never be truly great themselves.
If Oakland receives a top five pick in the 2014 draft, the team could trade back 10 spots and earn themselves an extra second and third round pick. That means the possibility of drafting Watkins, Murray (QB, Georgia) or Fales (QB, San Jose St.), along with a number of other big-name prospects.
Not to mention signing some of the aforementioned free-agent receivers or a slew of others.
Despite common belief that Oakland possesses a sub-par offensive line, they’re not that bad. In fact, the Raiders finished 2012 third best in QB hits (52) and sixth best in sacks allowed (26).
To contrast, the 49ers, widely believed to have the best offensive line in the league, allowed their quarterbacks (Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick) to be sacked a whopping 45 times in 2012 while allowing 68 QB hits.
Some may be upset with me for asking the question of whether Pryor is the best option available moving forward, but the bottom line is that a receiver can only be as good as his quarterback will let him.
So if Pryor doesn’t meet the high expectations that Raider Nation has given him, 2014 will be a tough, if not totally lost, cause.