Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin: Raiders will have a new QB - again

Published: Monday, Sep. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 11:17 am

OAKLAND – Matt Flynn isn't Colin Kaepernick. Worse, he isn't Terrelle Pryor. He relocated to the Bay Area because the brain trust envisioned him as a capable, relatively inexpensive starting quarterback for the woeful, we-are-rebuilding Raiders.

It was a bad job – OK, a terrible job – but it was supposed to be his job.

But now it could happen again. Seattle could happen again. Flynn, the former Green Bay backup who a year ago lost the starting position with the Seahawks to Russell Wilson, is reliving the nightmare.

At least the immensely popular Kaepernick plays in another conference. Pryor plays in the same conference, in the same division, on the same team, and the same position. A trend is a trend is a trend. NFL coaches and executives are intrigued by an offense (read option) that favors quarterbacks who are mobile, athletic and instinctive, who have nimble feet and explosive moves, and who are at least reasonably accurate when throwing on the run.

That doesn't sound very much like Flynn, who has thrown 141 passes, started two games in five seasons (both with Green Bay), and who is something of a rebel in today's game. He is more conventional than innovative, more adept at "getting the ball in our playmakers' hands" than escaping the rush and flummoxing defenses, forcing opponents to decide whether the biggest threat is coming from his feet or his arm.

That was the Raiders' original plan, anyway: Dump Carson Palmer and his combination of large contract/huge arm strength. Sign Flynn to a modest deal while continuing to gut the roster in anticipation of next offseason's free-agency bonanza. And on occasion, give Pryor a look.

Funny, isn't it, how games can get in the way?

The Bay Area quarterback controversy – that serial drama that resumed year after year – didn't die with Alex Smith's departure to Kansas City. It just moved a few miles to the east.

Flynn's thin NFL portfolio and preseason struggles, coupled with a recurrence of tendinitis and an offensive line that has more holes than a doughnut shop, created an opportunity for Pryor.

In the final preseason home game Aug. 23, Pryor burst into Coliseum and acted as if he has every intention of sticking around. With his team trailing 27-0, he directed four scoring drives, weaving and darting between defenders, exploiting his size (6-foot-4, 233 pounds) and his strength, and moving the offense by any means necessary. Sometimes, that was with his feet. Other times, that was with his arm.

Citing Flynn's tendinitis as his main concern, Raiders coach Dennis Allen started Pryor in Thursday's preseason finale against the Seahawks. This time the former Ohio State star performed to mixed reviews. He completed only 3 of 8 passes for 31 yards, was intercepted once, and was most effective running (three carries for 48 yards), which may or may not have been enough to secure the starting job.

When pressed about whether Pryor could score the upset with a strong performance against the Seahawks, in other words, oust Flynn as the starter on opening day, Allen was noncommittal but not dismissive. "Well, we'll see," he replied. "We'll see."

In coach speak, what that really means is, "Heck, yes, he has a chance."

Allen has eyes, and he has ears, and he also would very much like to keep his own job. He heard the boos when Flynn fumbled and threw two interceptions against Chicago, then sensed the crowd's energy and interest when Pryor took over.

And you think there's any chance general manager Reggie McKenzie and managing partner Mark Davis were unaware of the dramatic mood swing?

Ticket sales. Don't forget ticket sales. Al Davis has passed. Amy Trask has resigned. The Coliseum remains the Coliseum, and will be more of an ancient albatross when the 49ers move into their new stadium next season. Even assuming McKenzie's approach to 2013 is the wise one – purge the roster of bloated contracts and hit the next free-agent market like a fiend – patience is a dwindling commodity. Fans want at least a glimmer of hope, a sniff at an entertaining product, a reason to turn on the television, if not pack the stadium.

To what extent have Pryor's throwing mechanics and his accuracy improved? What about his decision-making? His command of the huddle? This is all new to him, too; he played in three games last season, and started only the finale.

"I want to see Terrelle play," Allen said. "He still needs game experience. It'll be a good thing to see him against a really good defense on the road, in that environment, and see how he responds. He's an exciting player."

That's a start.

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208. Follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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