Dennis Allen doesn’t live in a black hole of denial and oblivion.
He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is well aware of the happenings across the bay in the final couple months of the 2012 NFL season.
As he was completing a disappointing first season as the head coach of the 4-12 Oakland Raiders, Allen watched the neighboring San Francisco 49ers ride the arms and legs of Colin Kaepernick all the way to the Super Bowl.
Kaepernick, an electrifying player in the mold of today's athletic quarterback, was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Because of the 49ers’ success with Kaepernick in the starting lineup after starter Alex Smith suffered a concussion, many Oakland fans are asking the same question: Why don't the Raiders give their own young, athletic quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, a chance?
Allen has heard the questions and the comparisons of the situations. Obviously, Allen would love to see a quarterback be able to take his team to the Super Bowl. He also knows it’s not a simple process.
“But it’s not that easy,” Allen said at the NFL combine. “Every situation is different.”
Pryor -- taken in the third round of the supplemental draft a few months after the 49ers selected Kaepernick -- will be given a chance to develop. Oakland’s brass has maintained there will be competition at quarterback. But Allen has said that incumbent Carson Palmer -- assuming he restructures his contract from the $13-plus million now on the salary-cap books -- will go to training camp as the starter. Pryor will be the backup.
Allen said Pryor, who turns 24 in June, must show he can handle being the starter before simply being given the job. Just because Kaepernick had instant success across the bay doesn’t mean Pryor will.
“You just can’t roll the dice in this league and hope something pans out,” Allen said. “That’s not the way it works.”
Even though he is cautious, Allen made it clear he is a fan of Pryor and thinks he can develop into the starter. He just won’t be thrown into the starting lineup before it's time. Allen said if Pryor shows he is ready for the rigors of starting and shows the consistency to play regularly in the NFL, he will get the chance.
“When he shows he is ready to be the guy, he will be the guy,” Allen said. “I’m all for that. I want to win.”
Pryor -- 6-foot-4, 233 pounds -- must show Allen and his staff he is the guy in practice, the coach said.
Allen has seen the Ohio State product make progress. Allen and his staff were encouraged about Pryor’s long-term potential when he started in a loss to the Chargers in the regular-season finale, when Palmer was out with an injury. Pryor had his up and downs in the game, and his statistics were pedestrian: He completed 13 of 28 passes for 150 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Allen praised the command Pryor took during the week leading up to the game and in the game itself. He showed the poise and confidence teams want to see from their starting quarterback. Pryor also practiced better during that week than he did earlier in the season.
“He was our starting quarterback that week,” Allen said. “He took command. It was good to see.”
Allen said Pryor is one of the team’s hardest workers and that his work ethic has exceeded Allen's expectations.
“Football is very important to him,” Allen said. “Those are good signs. … But he still has a long way to go.”
I get the feeling the Raiders believe Pryor needs seasoning, but they think he can get there. Still, I think the team believes that Palmer, 33, gives Oakland the best chance to win in the short term and would like to enhance the roster around him.
Pryor does have the long-term support of new Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson, but so does Palmer.
“I like the ceiling of Terrelle Pryor and where we think he can get to, but his skill set is completely different than Carson’s, so we go forward with the idea [that] we know what Carson Palmer is," Olson told reporters shortly after he was hired. "He’s played in the league a number of years. We know what he can do.”
The Raiders will have some packages in place to take advantage of Pryor’s athleticism, but I think the only way Pryor gets a chance to play in 2013 is if Palmer completely falters and the Raiders start very slowly, or if Palmer gets hurt.
If it happens, Pryor will get his chance to do his best Kaepernick impression.