Whether or not you believe Jake Locker is the quarterback who can lead the Tennessee Titans back to prominence – and there are plenty of folks on either side of that issue – it is tough to say that the coaches’ commitment to him is a bad idea.
Based on what’s happening around the league at the moment, there’s nothing to suggest that waffling on who plays that position would be better.
Minnesota opened the season with Christian Ponder then tried Matt Cassel before it brought in Josh Freeman and threw him headfirst into the pool Monday night. Freeman completed 20 of 53 passes and ended up with a concussion that likely brings the Vikings back to Ponder.
Jacksonville has gone back and forth between Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne and – for now – has decided to stick with Henne over Gabbert, taken two spots after Locker in the 2011 draft.
Cleveland has given up on Brandon Weeden twice this season. The first time it looked as if it would work out when Brian Hoyer, who ultimately sustained a season-ending knee injury, led the Browns to three victories in three starts. Now they have opted for Jason Campbell ahead of their 2012 first-round pick.
In case anyone is wondering, Minnesota, Jacksonville and Cleveland are a combined 4-16 at the moment and none of their young quarterbacks have shown the level of improvement Locker has.
Simply put: There are not 32 quarterbacks worthy of being starters in the NFL.
Certainly there never are going to be 32 prepared to play right away in the manner of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Thus, teams that don’t get someone like that have two choices. Either commit to one and try build him into a quality starter or bounce back and forth between two or more and hope you get lucky.
No one thinks Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in NFL history but he has started every game since he entered the league in 2008 and last year led his team to a Super Bowl victory. The Ravens, unwilling to gamble on the unknown, rewarded him with a six-year, $120.6 million contract.
The Titans waited two years before they named Steve McNair their starter then endured two 8-8 seasons that were inconsistent enough to test their resolve. The investment paid off when McNair led them to the Super Bowl in 1999 and was named the league’s co-MVP in 2003.
When it came time to replace McNair, the franchise drafted Vince Young third overall in 2006. For the next five seasons coaches went back and forth between Young and veteran Kerry Collins – and the Titans did not win a playoff game.
So it was back to the drawing board and Locker with the eighth overall pick. Coaches named him the starter as soon as they felt they could – the beginning of last season – and twice have brought him back from injury as soon as they possibly could, most recently last week against San Francisco.
“I thought overall [he was] very competitive,” coach Mike Munchak said Monday. “I never thought once to take him out of that game. I never once thought it was a bad idea. He’s special that way, and I think that’s why we keep saying when the smoke clears the guy is going to be a winner. We’ve got some work ahead of us this year, but it was a good start for him.”
Locker’s original contract extends through next season. By then, the Titans ought to know whether they ought to give him another one because they are determined to give him every chance to show he is – or is not – worth it.
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