Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon, the only quarterback the Oakland Raiders have had in the last 15 years who’s been worth something, is a pretty smart guy; he knows a little something about the both the Raiders and the quarterback position.
GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen, holding the fifth pick in the draft, have both said that Johnny Manziel is going to be “fun to evaluate” and seem somewhat smitten with the Texas A&M gunslinger. But before they pull the trigger on that pick should Manziel fall to No. 5, they would do well to listen to the former Raider great, because it not only applies to Johnny Football, but to a quarterback already on their roster — Terrelle Pryor.
Gannon said that he’s “very impressed” by Manziel, but noted that his success is derived in large part because he can string plays out, keep them alive with his legs, and has a great ability to improvise on any given play. But precisely because of those traits, Gannon doesn’t think he’s an ideal fit for Oakland.
In a recent interview at the NFL combine, Gannon was quoted as saying about Manziel, “He’s a bad fit for the Raiders. A team has to be ready for a young quarterback. I don’t think that team is quite ready yet.” Gannon continued in his evaluation of Manziel, “I really like him. My biggest concern is the discipline from a quarterback standpoint. Footwork, sitting in the pocket, going through reads and progressions.”
So, for those keeping score at home — lack of discipline from a quarterbacking standpoint, concerns about his footwork, concerns about his ability to sit in the pocket going through his reads and progressions, and is ultimately a bad fit for the organization. It certainly sounds like Gannon is evaluating not just Manziel, but Pryor as well. He even made a passing comment, noting the similarity in the skill sets of the two young quarterbacks.
Further underscoring the Manziel/Pryor comparison was this line from the interview, “He’s a guy who likes to ad lib a lot, and you can’t always do that in the NFL.”
Which is exactly right. Being able to string out a play with your legs is a good thing. Having the ability to create something out of nothing is sometimes necessary. But if your default setting is to run first, and pass second — which seems to be Pryor’s default setting, and there is every indication that it’s Manziel’s as well — rather than going through your progressions and making the smart quarterbacking play, then you’re not going to be a good fit for the Raiders, or perhaps in the NFL as a whole.
In making his case for why Manziel is a bad fit in Oakland, whether he meant to or not, Gannon showed exactly why Pryor is a bad fit for the team as well. We can talk about statistics all day long, but Pryor, like Manziel, doesn’t have the discipline to be an effective quarterback in the NFL. That is not to suggest that they can’t eventually be a serviceable quarterback, but they will both need time and patience to develop if they’re ever to have success. They can both do terrific things with their legs, but you can’t win in the NFL if you aren’t an effective, consistent passer in the league. Pryor showed that, at this point in his career, he is not an effective, consistent passer. We’ll have to wait and see with Manziel, but given their similar skill sets, it’s very possible, if not likely, he’ll be just as ineffective as Pryor.
Of Manziel, Gannon said, “He has to go somewhere where they have a very disciplined coordinator and quarterback coach, somebody who is really going to grind on him and stay on him for those first couple years as he learns the system.”
McKenzie and Allen simply don’t have the time to spare to develop them, grind and stay on them, or teach them how to be the type of pocket passer that still dominates the league. There is too much on the line this season.
In making his case for passing on Manziel, who he termed a “bad fit” for the club, Gannon showed the Raiders exactly why they also need to move forward without Pryor as well.