SAN DIEGO -- Terrelle Pryor infused an excitement into a weary fan base Sunday that was more Todd Marinovich getting his first NFL start to close out the 1991 season than it was JaMarcus Russell starting his first game in the 2007 season finale.
Pryor threw a pair of touchdown passes, ran for another and with his ability to extend plays with his legs kept San Diego honest in the Chargers' 24-21 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
"Oh my goodness," Pryor said Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano told him. "You were hard to prepare for."
Yes, Pryor did some good things, and some not-so-good things en route to throwing for 150 yards on 13 of 28 passing and a 72.0 quarterback rating, while also rushing for 49 yards on nine carries.
I asked him, while acknowledging he would have preferred to win the game, just how much fun he had out there. And just after he started to answer, he stopped himself. Pryor looked at the media scrum and flipped the script. He wanted to know how we thought he played.
A "mixed bag" was the consensus, and Pryor agreed.
Still, the most impressive thing he did all day had nothing to do with a proper read, or hitting a receiver in stride, as he did Rod Streater with a perfectly-placed ball for a 38-yard pickup to the Chargers' 3-yard line in the fourth quarter, or pulling the ball down and taking off. It was the leadership he demonstrated early in the second quarter when he went into a scrum, pulled out Mike Goodson and admonished him.
It's called being a leader, and you can't teach it.
"I thought he did a good job of trying to get Goody out of there," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "Unfortunately, the damage was done."
Indeed, because Goodson and Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes had grabbed each others' facemasks and would not let go. They were both ejected from the game. On the previous play, a pass interference by Antoine Cason in the end zone on Streater that would have set the Raiders up at the 1-yard line was wiped out.
"I love Mike Goodson, that's my guy," Pryor said. "He's one of my very good friends and I know that I slammed him, but you can't do that (and get a penalty). We were about to score. It's very hard to get down there and score in the NFL and if we're down there, what if we get a 15-yard penalty?
"I told Mike that he needs to be the bigger man."
Pryor then started rattling off the Raiders' penalty issues from last year, when they set league records for penalties (163) and penalty yardage (1,358).
"We have to be the bigger guy when scuffles like that happen," Pryor added. "I got caught up and have to apologize for throwing him, but it's just me being a leader and trying to get him off (the field). I don't think I handled it the right way but I'm a feisty guy."
To be fair, he did make a few young-player mistakes, such as trying for an extra yard, and slipping inbounds, at the end of the first half, when time ran out before the Raiders could trot out Sebastian Janikowski for a 55-plus yard field goal attempt.
And there was Pryor's high-arcing wobbly interception in the end zone from 28 yards out on the first series of the third quarter.
Plus he missed a few receivers, who also dropped a few of his passes. Then again, what did you expect from a guy playing his first meaningful football lame in almost two years?
What, then, surprised Allen, either positively or negatively?
"The athleticism was good," Allen said. "At times, he threw the ball really well. I think there were a few accuracy issues that he could've been better on.
"With Terrelle, with any young quarterback, you take a little bit of the good with the bad. Overall, I thought, not bad."
What about his game management?
"There were a few issues," Allen said. "Overall, I thought it was all right. That was a good first step for him."
Then what about the opinion that Pryor earned the chance to play next season?
"I think he earned the chance for us to evaluate him some more," Allen said. "That was a good first step in that direction."
Pryor got the chance this week with Carson Palmer suffering a bruised lung and cracked ribs on a hit from Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy last week. Pryor said Palmer coached him up and talked him up all week long, sending him diagrams of plays and texting him a reassuring message Saturday night.
"I love that guy," Pryor said, going so far as to call Palmer a father figure in the wake of his own father passing away last summer.
And with Palmer's help next year…
"Like I've told you guys before, I'm going to be great at the quarterback position and I just have to let things slow down for me," Pryor said. "I have to be calm, be a leader and get to the next play. If I do that, watch out for us."