Chip Kelly: Terrelle Pryor the one who got away

Chip Kelly: Terrelle Pryor the one who got away

Lunch Break: Foles vs. Pryor

October 31, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Terrelle Pryor's 93-yard touchdown run vs. the Steelers last Sunday was the longest ever by a quarterback. (USA Today Images)

People have chased after Terrelle Pryor his whole life. Chip Kelly was one of them once.

Before Pryor was an elusive quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, he was an elusive quarterback for Ohio State. And before that, Pryor was an elusive quarterback at Jeannette High School in Pennsylvania. That’s when Kelly went after him, hoping to move him to the Pacific Northwest to make him an elusive quarterback for Oregon.

“Actually tried to recruit Terrelle in high school, never got a chance to get him to come out and visit, but I knew him pretty well,” Kelly said. “I was in Jeannette about four or five times watching him play.”

Makes sense. The most interesting part of the story? Kelly went out to see Pryor play basketball for Jeannette High.

“Tremendous athlete,” Kelly said. “I think the first thing that will strike you when you see him is just actually how big he is. ... But when you see him you look like you're looking at a defensive end. There's two guys that I've had an opportunity to coach against, Cam Newton and Terrelle Pryor, that are that -- that when you look at them they're kind of like an NBA power forward, but they can run, and that's kind of the thing that jumps out at you is his athleticism. I think he's really come along as a quarterback.”

Pryor is in his first year as a starting NFL quarterback. He’s completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 1,149 yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 77.2 quarterback rating. He has a big arm, but it's his legs that make him dangerous. Pryor has carried the ball 53 times for 391 yards and a touchdown.

That rushing total includes last week’s 93-yard touchdown dash against the Steelers. It was the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history.

“I think the one threat that he's always had,” Kelly said, “is his ability to kind of take the ball and tuck it and run, so you've got to be really conscious, similar to like in the Washington game when you had [Robert Griffin III] that you'd better know where your rush lanes are, you'd better know who's got containment and where we are and try to keep him hemmed in and not let him escape because when he escapes it might not be a six‑yard gain, it could be a 60‑yard gain with the type of wheels that he has.”

Kelly said he hoped those wheels would speed around Eugene, Oregon, for a few years, but Pryor didn’t want to abandon the East Coast for the West Coast. He picked Ohio State over Penn State in part because he wanted his mother to attend games. The other reason Pryor passed on passing for Oregon? The Ducks didn’t run what Pryor considered an NFL system.

“You're not really learning dropback stuff and a lot of protections," Pryor told the San Jose Mercury News. "I came from a high school like that, so I understood and had to make a grown-man decision when I was 18 to go to Ohio State, because they had a lot of pro-style stuff and stuff I needed to get caught up on."

The amusing part is Kelly now runs that system in the NFL and other teams, including the Raiders, have adopted components of the read-option and applied it to their offensive game plans. It’s part of why Pryor has had surprising success so far this year. He’s a good fit for the scheme.

Sunday’s game will be the second time Pryor’s team and Kelly’s team have faced each other. In 2010, Pryor went 23 for 37 for 266 yards and two touchdowns to push Ohio State past Oregon, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl. But when he was asked how the Ducks tried to defend him that day, Pryor drew a blank.

“I can’t really remember,” Pryor said during a conference call with the Philadelphia media this week. “I should go back and look at that. Thank you guys. You just gave me a little edge.”