By Sam McPherson
Most NFL teams would envy a club that has two young quarterbacks under the age of 25 on its roster with so much potential, but for the Oakland Raiders, that exact situation is quite the quandary heading into the end of the disappointing 2013 season -- and looking forward to the 2014 season.
And the question of which QB might be the best going forward has to be on the mind of the team as it faces its final three opponents of this season: the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. Wins won't matter as much as how each player performs in auditioning for 2014.
Two of those games are home, and all three are against teams in the AFC West that the Raiders will be facing multiple times each year in the immediate future.
So Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor -- both age 24, both from Big Ten universities with historically strong football programs -- may decide the future of the Silver and Black. Which one will it be? The division is dominated by good-to-great quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith.
Who joins them from the Oakland roster?
Manning and Rivers are both in the top seven this year in the NFL's quarterback rating ranks, and Smith would have been in the top three last year if he'd been able to stay healthy in his final season with the San Francisco 49ers.
McGloin and Pryor can't be mentioned in the same sentence as that AFC West trio yet, but one of them will need to make strides in that direction - both in the final three games this season and throughout the offseason if the Raiders want to make a move in 2014.
Each Oakland quarterback brings a different skill set to the table as well, further complicating the matter. McGloin, from Penn State, is the more traditional pocket-passing NFL QB, in the mold of an Alex Smith, actually. Pryor, from Ohio State, is closer to the crop of young QBs who took the NFL by storm in 2012: Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, etc.
The Raiders dilemma actually may be close to that of the 49ers last offseason, when San Francisco decided to go with Kaepernick and trade Smith.
McGloin is 1-3 as a starter, and Pryor is 3-6, so there isn't much to go on with that measurement. Yes, QBs get a lot of credit and/or blame for a team's W-L record, but with the Raiders roster as a whole, that's not fair. That's in addition to considering injuries to key players all season long on the offensive side of the ball, and of course, the defense's challenges in 2013.
Pryor did provide a welcome spark to the team early in the year, as the Raiders got off to a surprising 3-4 start. That included a close loss on the road to Indianapolis and tough loss to the Washington Redskins -- a playoff team last year -- at home where Oakland was leading at halftime.
But a 49-20 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles on November 3 at the O.co Coliseum changed Pryor's fortunes, and when McGloin led the Raiders to their first road win of the year on November 17 in Houston, he too brought a new bounce to the Oakland steps on the field.
Neither QB can overcome difficult defensive issues, of course, but McGloin has probably been the better QB on the field, although the small sample sizes really aren't conclusive. (And they may never be, so it'll always be a judgment call in the end.)
McGloin has a better QB rating (86.1 to 68.7) and a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (6:3 to 5:10), two standard measurements for NFL quarterbacking performance. Pryor has a better completion percentage, albeit not by much (58.5 to 57.1), and of course, the Ohio State product can run significantly better than his Penn State counterpart (508 yards on the ground to 22).
The two tenets of the FootballOutsiders.com "system" for predicting future NFL performance for college quarterbacks are completion percentage and games started:
- Pryor started 36 games in Columbus, completing 60.9 percent of his throws in 39 games played overall;
- McGloin started 29 games in State College, completing 57.4 percent of this throws in 32 games played overall.
It seems Pryor would have the higher upside of the two QBs, especially when you toss in his running capabilities, although McGloin might be the safer choice considering his current ability to step into the NFL game more readily than Pryor.
Again, this is almost the same challenge the 49ers faced last offseason: Keep the guy with more upside knowing he will take his lumps as he learns the game? Or stick with the traditional, safe bet at the position who may not be as flashy but is more "ready" to handle the NFL now?
The only real difference is the 49ers also chose youth over experience, and Oakland doesn't have that "luxury."
Whatever the Raiders decide with their QB dilemma will go a long way toward defining their 2014 season -- and beyond.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.
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