ALAMEDA -- With the season going nowhere, the curiosity high and the alternatives slim, the choice is clear.
It's time for the Raiders to take an extended look at Terrelle Pryor at quarterback.
Starting quarterback Carson Palmer has been pushed to the sideline by injury. Backup Matt Leinart, who took over when Palmer was injured last Sunday, seems destined to spend most of his NFL career in that role. More to the point, the Raiders already know what they have in Leinart, who probably won't return next season.
That Pryor has practically zero history and almost certainly will be back in 2013 makes him the logical option for a franchise whose regressive season has placed it in the position of spending the final month in evaluation mode.
There can be no greater value for the Raiders in their season finale Sunday at San Diego than to leave Qualcomm Stadium with some legitimate clues about the unknowns on the roster.
Is there a bigger -- or more compelling -- unknown than Pryor, a very good athlete who desperately hopes to prove himself able as an NFL quarterback?
Leinart and Pryor shared time on the practice field Wednesday, and coach Dennis Allen implied that will be the plan for the remainder of the week -- or until he decides which player will start and how playing time might be divided.
"We gotta put a game plan together that gives us a chance to beat San Diego," Allen said.
For the sake of the Raiders,
The Raiders are 4-11, and 5-11 won't make them much better. Allen has been around the league long enough -- and has reason to be secure enough -- to know that one victory at the end of a futile season might bring short-term satisfaction but that overall development likely will have more lasting significance.
No informed decision can be made about much of anything in life without, well, research and study. Pryor demands research and study.
The Raiders could, of course, sprinkle in a few plays for Pryor and learn what they already know. That he will have some difficulty calling plays. That he will have some problems getting the snap on time. That he will throw some unsightly passes. That he is profoundly unpolished and can be wildly inconsistent.
But in this era of dual-threat quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, the Raiders have to see what is there at this embryonic stage of Pryor's NFL career.
They have to prepare for the best and the worst, for glimpses of possibility, moments of brilliance, sheer ineptitude, spasms of hope, utter failure -- anything that might assist Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie in bringing clarity to the future.
For now, Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp owe it to themselves, to the team and to Pryor to coach him to the fullest this week, to do all they can to prepare him for a road game against a sub-mediocre team. They need to know if he can be a part of their future.
The team's managing partner, Mark Davis, surely would like to know. McKenzie stated four weeks ago that the team needed to present Pryor with an opportunity, if only because there is no other way to fairly evaluate the 23-year-old from Ohio State.
Since then, little of value has been gained.
Pryor's interpretation of Wednesday's practice was slightly different from that provided by Allen. Pryor described it not so much as even reps and him coming in behind Leinart for two or three snaps with the first team.
"I'm happy with it because it was more than I was getting," he said.
Pryor said he understands the coaches "are looking out for me." He's right. Nothing would have been gained by pushing him out there in the middle of the season with promise. Nothing would have been gained by turning the team over to a QB with zero game experience when a first-year staff is trying to build a team.
"They knew I wasn't ready," Pryor said, "and I still may not be."
But 15 games into the season, the priorities have to shift. This season's promise is long gone. It's too late to build a team, much less a contender.
That rookie offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom could start Sunday in place of Mike Brisiel (concussion) is a way to get a sneak preview of what Bergstrom might offer.
For Pryor and the Raiders, this is one more opportunity, the last chance before minicamps.
The Raiders-Chargers season finale is a blip on the NFL screen, relatively meaningless. It will remain so only if Oakland insists.
Raiders (4-11) at San Diego (6-9), 1:25 p.m. CBS
Pryor, Leinart get first-team reps in practice.
Raiders are shut out in Pro Bowl selections.