Entering the 2013 season, the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles found themselves in very similar situations. Both teams were coming off of 4-12 seasons, and both had questions about who their starting quarterbacks would be moving forward. While Chip Kelly elected to wait until the middle of the preseason to name Michael Vick as his starter, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen decided to name Matt Flynn as the team's starter in May. Flynn, who was released in early October, ended up losing out to Terrelle Pryor in Training Camp. According to Allen, changing his mind was a simple decision because he knew that he had to do what was best for his football team.
"You want to have that guy that's your quarterback and that's who is going to lead your football team," Allen said on his conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "We went into this whole thing with the thought process of there being a package of plays and some things that Terrelle could do to help our offense be effective and that Matt Flynn would be the starting quarterback, but as you go through and you watch the competition develop and guys get opportunities to go out and perform, Terrelle won the job, and I think that's what our job is as coaches.
"Listen, we don't have all of the answers when we first start out. It takes time to go through the evaluation process, but the key is that you're true to yourself and you're true to your team, and the best guy plays, and I feel like we've done that."
Pryor has certainly come a long way. After being selected by Oakland with a third-round pick in the 2011 Supplemental Draft, the athletic quarterback saw little action in his first two seasons, until an injury to then-starter Carson Palmer allowed Pryor to get the start in the 2012 season finale, and he hasn't looked back. His 93-yard touchdown run last week against Pittsburgh, the longest ever by a quarterback, highlighted his ability as a runner, but it's the strides that Pryor is making as a passer that have impressed his head coach.
"I've seen a lot of development from him," said Allen. "I think he's improved himself as a quarterback. I think he's improved himself as a passer in the pocket. He's still got a lot of things that he needs to improve on. I think he's done an outstanding job and I think he's going to continue to get better as we move forward, and the more experience that he gets and the more things that he has the opportunity to see, the better he's going to be when he gets in those types of situations again.
"I think the big thing that I want to see with Terrelle is that I want to continue to see the consistency, and that's what you deal with a lot of times with young players is that they're a little bit inconsistent. He's got to continue to get to work."
Allen spoke about another young quarterback as well - Eagles starter Nick Foles. Despite the rough performance that Foles had in his last game against Dallas, Allen knows that the second-year pro is more than capable of running the offense.
"I think you're going to look at games and sometimes guys are going to play better in one game and maybe not quite as good in another game," Allen explained. "When you look at the full body of work and when he's had an opportunity to go in there and play, he's been pretty successful. He's been able to move the team and generate some offense. Obviously the Dallas game probably wasn't the best performance that they could put forward, but this is still a very explosive offense, and whether it be Michael Vick in there at quarterback or Nick Foles in there at quarterback, both of those guys have been able to move the football team and score some points."
The youngest head coach in the NFL, Allen has a defensive background that includes stops in Atlanta, New Orleans and most recently Denver as the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2011. Now in his second season as the Raiders head coach, Allen is tasked with slowing down an Eagles offense that has stalled in recent weeks, but has the potential to bounce back to form at any point.
"It's different," Allen said of Kelly's system. "There are some different things that they do, obviously with the hurry-up tempo, trying to get you worn down and trying to get you in a situation where communication is at the utmost of importance. That's one of the hardest things they do, and then they spread you out and they try to get playmakers in space. I think they've done a great job of being able to do that. They're still fifth in the league in total offense and they set an NFL record going through the first six weeks of the season, as far as offense is concerned, so this is a very high-powered, explosive offense."
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