As I have been very openly critical of Terrelle Pryor as a quarterback, it would be completely disingenuous of me to give him a flowery eulogy or glorify his exploits now that he’s been traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Pryor wasn’t close to being the only — or biggest — problem for the Raiders, but my personal feeling is that in the bigger picture, trading him is addition by subtraction. And I would be remiss if I didn’t make note of the fact that Pryor’s trade officially brings an era in the colorful, storied history of the Oakland Raiders to a close. Symbolically, at least.
Though he’s been gone for more than two years now, Al Davis‘ presence still hangs heavy over the Raiders, and it’s not necessarily all in a warm, nostalgic sort of way. Shooting for one last shot at Super Bowl glory, Davis’ series of poor draft picks and lavish contracts given out to declining players hamstrung the organization, which has helped reduce the franchise to its current condition. And Pryor, who has the distinction of being the very last draft pick Davis ever made, somewhat epitomizes the problems that have plagued the Raiders for so long — moments of brilliance, tons of promise and potential, but a fatal lack of consistency or improvement. Pryor, like the Raiders as a whole over the last decade plus, has never come close to living up to the potential that both Davis and the Raider faithful wanted to believe was there.
However, with Pryor now in Seattle and the mountain of problems left by Davis finally cleared, the franchise can finally turn the page and lay the past to rest. The Raiders start 2014 with a new purpose, new direction, and most importantly, with a clean slate. So far, GM Reggie McKenzie has made the most of this fresh start. He’s brought in veterans like Justin Tuck, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Lamarr Woodley and Matt Schaub — players with a proven track record of success, of knowing what it takes to win in the NFL, and of being leaders in the clubhouse. McKenzie is doing everything in his power to change the very culture in Oakland, a culture that has been saturated with losing for far too long. He’s doing it by making a clean break with the past while still honoring its traditions.
McKenzie has the chance to pick the Raiders up out of the gutter and lead them back to glory, but he can’t do that if he’s still chained to the past, and if he doesn’t manage to unburden himself of the albatross Davis left strapped around his neck. Trading Pryor, Davis’ final draft failing, served to sever that chain. He is now free to chart the way forward and continue molding the organization with his own vision for it, serving as his guide.
To be sure, Pryor is not to blame for all of the organization’s miseries and woes. In some respects, he was a victim of circumstance. The Raiders were simply not equipped to function with a player like Pryor at the helm. He has a chance for a fresh start of his own in Seattle, to be with an organization that has the schemes, systems and personnel in place that will allow him to utilize his skill set. He’s a tremendous athlete, but he’s not a good fit for Oakland. He never was, and unfortunately, that was something Davis didn’t understand.
Pryor is free to be the sort of player he wants to be. The Raiders are finally free from Davis’ shadow, free from his legacy of free agent nightmares and draft day failures. It’s a win-win situation. McKenzie is free to chart the way forward and bring the franchise back to greatness. The future starts now for the Oakland Raiders.