The Tennessee Titans are confusing me with their quarterback decisions this off-season. While I understand, and even somewhat predicted, the move away from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the decision to sign Charlie Whitehurst is still head scratching. Whitehurst was with head coach Ken Whisenhunt last year in San Diego, and does have the familiarity with his system, which makes some sense.
It’s certainly understandable that a new coach wants to pick his quarterback. I want a pony. Whisenhunt takes over a Titans team that spend a first round draft pick in the 2011 draft on former Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Locker of course is still relatively untried as an NFL quarterback having only played 23 out of a possible 48 games in his professional career. To be fair, his first season he was Matt Hasselbeck’s backup but he won the starting job in the 2012 offseason and then suffered through injury plagued 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Locker has grown through his 2 years starting in the league and was showing signs he was making that jump before the first of his injuries in 2013. In 2012, he played 11 games and went 177 of 314 for 2176 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with a completion percentage of 56.4 and a passer rating of 74.0. He also rushed 41 times for 291 yards (7.1 YPC), 1 touchdown, 13 firstdowns, and 2 fumbles (both lost).
2013 was supposed to be Locker’s breakout year and he did show signs of improvement. Unfortunately, he only played 7 games before his season was cut short by a second injury to his right foot in the 10th game of the season against Jacksonville. He previously suffered an injury to his right hip and knee in the 4th game against the New York Jets that caused him to miss 2 games.
One of the more encouraging stats in Locker’s stat line from 2013 was his completion percentage. Locker’s accuracy is a big issue so says the narrative surrounding the young quarterback. Prior to the Jacksonville game, Locker’s completion percentage was 61.5%. He would finish the year with a 60.7% completion percentage and a passer rating of 86.7. His passer rating hovered around 100 prior to his last 2 games.
Locker officially went 111 of 183 for 1256 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions in 2013. His yards per pass overall increased but the Jacksonville game really hurt his stat line. He would finish with a 6.86 yards per pass average. He rushed 24 times for 155 yards, 2 touchdowns, 9 first downs and 3 fumbles (1 lost).
The Titans already announced they won’t be picking up Locker’s 2015 option year so he is only under contract for 2014 at a price tag of $2,091,273.00. They have the newly minted backup Charlie Whitehurst and behind him Tyler Wilson. Yet they are kicking the tires on just about every quarterback in this draft.
Speaking of Wilson, flash back to last off-season when quarterbacks were being evaluated and ranked. Wilson was highly regarded by many draft analysts. A lot of people were surprised at how the quarterbacks fell in last year’s draft. The only first round quarterback was E.J. Manuel. Wilson lasted to the 4th round and was selected by the Oakland Raiders.
I wrote this about Tyler Wilson when the Titans signed him in December of 2013. I’m not a big fan of change just for change. People love bright shiny new toys. I refuse to downgrade Wilson because of what happened in Oakland because Raiders.
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” Kurt Vonnegut
Many are concerned about Jake Locker’s health. I get it. It’s understandable. Fans are unhappy with the lack of a playoff appearance since 2008. Again, that is completely understandable. You don’t throw the baby away in the bathwater however.
I am not convinced any quarterback in this draft class is better than what the Titans currently have on their roster, Clipboard Jesus not withstanding. I am even less convinced a later round prospect is a better option that sticking with Tyler Wilson and seeing if you can develop him. I am entirely convinced that later round pick can be used on an area that needs attention such as safety, offensive line and perhaps even tight end.
The Titans failure to hit on their high draft picks has long plagued this franchise. I understand Jake Locker isn’t Whisenhunt’s guy. Neither is Tyler Wilson for that matter. As a head coach and leader you work with what is given you and that more than anything can define your success.
The Titans only have 6 draft picks and they need to hit on everyone of them. I remain unconvinced quarterback is an area that must be addressed this year. The Titans need to be efficient with the use of their draft picks.