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Jake Locker is Not Tennessee’s Long-Term Solution at QB

After three disappointing and injury-plagued seasons, it’s time for the Titans to think about a future without Jake Locker.

Jake Locker
Jake Locker

Sep 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) wipes his face against the Houston Texans during the second half at Reliant Stadium. The Texans won 30-24. Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Steve McNair left the Tennessee Titans in 2005, the organization has been on the hunt for its next franchise quarterback. The Titans thought they had found one right away in McNair’s successor, Vince Young, after he was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, but his tenure under center in Tennessee was marred by off-field issues and a tumultuous relationship with then head coach, Jeff Fisher. After losing his job to veteran Kerry Collins, Young was released in 2010 and the Titans once again turned to the NFL draft, selecting highly-touted University of Washington product Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick in 2011. However, after spending nearly three seasons waiting for Locker to emerge as a star, it appears the Titans have yet to find their next great QB.

Not only has Locker failed to break out as some of his contemporaries (Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III) have, but he has failed to stay on the field much at all in his first three NFL seasons. The Titans wisely allowed Locker to learn and develop as he sat behind veteran Matt Hasselbeck during his rookie season, but ever since Locker was given the keys to the Titans offense last season, it has sputtered, stalled and gotten into far too many accidents – often injuring its fragile driver, who hasn’t been physically able to complete either of his two seasons as the Titans’ starting quarterback.

On Monday, Titans head coach Mike Munchak confirmed fans’ and his own worst fears when he revealed that the foot injury Locker suffered in last Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars will end the quarterback’s season. Last year it was a torn shoulder, this year a poorly-timed Lisfranc injury, but the feeling of disappointment in Tennessee is the same. Locker, who has started just 18 games and won eight in his first three seasons, is obviously not the long term solution at quarterback for the Titans, but how many more years need to be wasted before the franchise finally realizes it’s time to move on? After this latest setback, you would think the time would be now, but it appears the in-house conversation about the franchise’s future will be pushed back for at least a few more months.

“I think that’s stuff we’ll talk about when the season is over and you have to make decisions on the next season… That’s a nice February discussion,” Munchak said, according to The Tennessean. “He [Locker] is a fighter and if anyone can come back from another injury it is going to be him. We are just concentrating on these next seven weeks.”

Obviously, Munchak still has a job to do. With a 4-5 team that’s only two games back of the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts coming into tonight, he still has a chance to help Tennessee save its 2013, but General Manager Ruston Webster and the rest of the front office staff have to be proactive and begin thinking about what their next move is, instead of simply holding out hope that Locker can turn this thing around.

It’s hard for anyone to admit their mistakes, but investing so much time, money and faith in Locker was a costly one for the Titans. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but there were many things the Titans simply didn’t see, or chose to overlook in their initial evaluation of Locker, including the numerous significant injuries he sustained in college and his 10-21 record as a starting quarterback. They had to have known using a first-round pick on Locker was a risk, but they will be taking an even bigger risk by not addressing their pressing need at QB this offseason.

Let’s face it, competition in Tennessee’s division is only going to get more fierce in the coming years – maybe not from the toothless Jags for a while – but certainly from the Colts and the Houston Texans, who are enduring a down year, but still have plenty of talent. If the Titans want to keep up, they’ll need their own Andrew Luck sooner rather than later. Fortunately for Tennessee, there are plenty of healthy and talented throwers in the upcoming 2014 class (depending on who comes out), including Tajh Boyd, Brett Hundley, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater. Will one of them be the Titans’ long-awaited answer? No one can know for sure, but one thing we do (or should) know is that Locker is not.

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