Oakland Raiders: The Legacy of Al Davis Lives on Through Terrelle Pryor

Despite Complete Overhaul, Legendary Legacy Lives On

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COMMENTARY | The Autumn Wind is a pirate,

Blustering in from sea,

With a rollicking song, he sweeps along,

Swaggering boisterously.

The Autumn Wind. Steve Sabol wrote it. Al Davis loved it.

Its grit and toughness symbolized everything the late Al Davis stood for and everything he wanted for his beloved Raiders.

Through the last years of his life, the Raiders struggled mightily with Davis at the helm. But nobody was going to take his team away from him. Nobody.

He drafted his way. He loved speed, the deep ball, phenomenal punters, and guys who fit the Raider image he worked so hard to build.

The last pick he ever made was Terrelle Pryor, the controversial and extremely athletic quarterback from Ohio State in 2011.

Pryor was raw. Still is. An incredible athlete that needs more work, Pryor was the prototypical draft pick that Davis loved to make. And even though his eye for talent became so inept after being so strong for decades, Davis saw something in Pryor.

Now, he's the starting quarterback in Oakland.

It's ironic, really. General manager Reggie McKenzie came in to run the team after Davis died and cleaned house in every sense of the word.

Gone was the head coach who brought the Raiders within one win of their first playoff birth in a decade. Gone were the bloated contracts Davis left behind. And gone was pretty much anything Davis ever touched toward the end of his life.

With the exceptions of Darren McFadden, Tyvon Branch, Sebastian Janikowski and Charles Woodson, no other draft pick Davis ever made was on the field for the Raiders as the 2013 season started.

And even though McKenzie brought in his own former draft pick in Matt Flynn to be the Raiders' quarterback of the future, a piece of Al Davis slipped through the cracks and found his way into the conversation.

His name was Terrelle Pryor.

Peter King tweeted Thursday just how Pryor felt about the late owner.

"I owe Mr. Davis. This man believed I'd be a star quarterback. He said that to me multiple times. Everyday I'm thankful [for him]."

No doubt Davis believed in Pryor when nobody else would give him a chance. After all, he wasn't taken until the third round of the supplemental draft. But Davis believed in him nonetheless.

Yes, Pryor has miles to go before becoming a star quarterback in the NFL. He's in his third year and has only made two starts. And even though Oakland lost to Indianapolis 21-17 in the season opener last week, Pryor stole the show by throwing for over 200 yards and running for over 100 as well.

He made mistakes, but was also critical of them and handled the loss with true professionalism. His valiant effort made Raider fans optimistic about the future, a feeling they haven't felt in quite some time.

McKenzie is doing his best to transform the Raiders from the laughing stock of the NFL into the proud franchise that everyone wanted to play for. He's trying to steer the team away from controversial players and constant penalties, something Davis' teams were always known for.

That's why Hue Jackson was shown the door in the first place.

Only two starters from last year's defense are still on the team, and the overpaid players Davis tied down were shipped out, albeit with guaranteed money.

Nearly half of the Raiders' salary cap has gone to players who don't even wear the silver and black anymore, and McKenzie is hoping to build this team through the draft like he did in Green Bay.

McKenzie played for Davis. He knew the Raiders' culture from the very start. He cares deeply for the team. Why else did he leave his cushy job in Green Bay to take the Raiders gig that was going to be a headcase for anyone?

He wants the team to succeed, and he's doing it his way. And even though he's replaced bloated contracts with bargained veterans and fired coaches left from the previous regime, his starting quarterback is the last piece left behind by the most legendary and notorious owner in NFL history.

Ironic? Perhaps. But appropriate? Most definitely.

Steven Slivka is a freelance writer for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.

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