The Oakland Raiders learned the hard way just how important Terrelle Pryor is to their success this season on Sunday when they were forced to take on Washington without him. Backup Matt Flynn filled in for the concussed Pryor and did very little to earn his extremely high salary.
When things began to falter between former starting quarterback Carson Palmer and the Raiders new regime last offseason, things happened quickly and mistakes were made. It soon became clear that Palmer no longer had a future in Oakland; the only question that remained was whether he would get traded or cut.
But before the Raiders and Palmer even parted ways, general manager Reggie McKenzie traded for the man he believed would serve as his replacement. The Raiders gave up two future draft picks to acquire Flynn and his starter’s salary, which includes $6.5 million in guaranteed money. McKenzie did this despite the fact that Flynn lost the starting job in Seattle to Russell Wilson and was dealing with an elbow injury.
Fast forward to the start of the regular season and Raiders head coach Dennis Allen made the decision to start the fleet-footed Pryor over the more stationary Flynn. It was disappointing to give up draft picks and a large portion of the salary cap to a guy who would not be a starter. But at the same time, it was exciting to see Pryor step up.
Indeed, Pryor earned the starting job as much as Flynn lost it.
But now that Flynn has been asked to actually fulfill his non-clipboard carrying backup duties, it has become obvious that not only is he unsuited to be the starter in Oakland, he is clearly not even an adequate backup.
McKenzie is only in his second year as a general manager and he was dealt a tough hand in his first go-around. But with that being said, he took a gamble with the most important position on a football team and is lucky it hasn’t cost him his job. In fact, McKenzie owes his predecessor, Al Davis, a debt of gratitude for diminishing the impact of the Flynn trade.
When Davis drafted Pryor in the third round of the supplemental draft, many mocked the pick and jumped to the conclusion that Pryor would never be an NFL quarterback. However, if not for that selection the Raiders very well may have been the worst team in the league this season. Instead, Pryor has shown potential to be the Raiders’ franchise quarterback, saving McKenzie from the embarrassment of watching Flynn start for the Raiders all season.
McKenzie is still in the infancy of his career as a general manager, but this should serve as a tough lesson that he hopefully not repeat.