Analysis: Locker passes on opportunity to set tone for 2014

Sure, Jake Locker missed on some passes when he actually played for the Tennessee Titans this fall.

Nothing wrong there. No quarterback finds the mark with every delivery.

What is somewhat troubling is that he missed an opportunity Monday, the day after the Titans finished 7-9 and (once again) out of the playoffs. As players cleaned out their lockers and met with the media one final team Locker was nowhere to be found and had nothing to say.

He could have (should have?) hobbled in on his crutches and held his own personal press conference. He could have (should have?) said exactly what he expects from his teammates during the offseason, exactly what they can expect from him in his rehab from foot surgery and beyond, and exactly what everyone should expect from the Titans next season.

He did none of it. A guy who spent more than half the season injured and out of action chose to keep himself out of the picture on the day the focus turned to the future.

Let’s be clear about this: The Titans remain committed to the 2011 first-round pick and there is no doubt he will be the starter when training camp opens next summer. Likewise, there never has been any question about Locker’s work ethic or desire to play.

Still, this was his chance to reclaim his position in a figurative sense and to reassert his leadership in a dramatic way for a group of players that still is trying to find its way.

Anyone who ever has vowed privately to lose weight knows how easy it is to abandon that plan at the sight of the first ice cream sundae. Make a public declaration on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, though, and the stakes are raised. Everything changes when others know your expectations and plan to hold you to them.

What a statement it would have been had Locker put the entire organization on notice that things have to be better – starting immediately.

Quarterback, as we all know, is a different position. When those who play the position recognize and embrace that fact, it makes a real difference.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are not afraid to get in their teammates’ faces, which often brings out the best in them. Cam Newton improved his body language and messages to the press this season and – lo and behold – Carolina made the playoffs. Heck, Tim Tebow once got the Denver Broncos into the playoffs (and won a game) largely because of his leadership, not his mastery of the position.

Locker prefers to be one of the guys. He wants his play to speak for itself but, quite frankly, he didn’t play enough in 2013.

Monday was the perfect opportunity for him to speak up, and he let it pass.