Tennessee Titans: 4 Reasons Jake Locker Must Not Start the 2012 Season
Locker turned down the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in 2010 to return to a dismal Washington Huskies team and bring them a bowl victory. Despite doing so, he fell as far as the second round on many draft boards.
To the dismay of many mock draft experts, the Titans snatched Locker up with the No. 8 overall pick.
While Locker was a great get for Tennessee, his skills and decision making need to continue to develop as a backup before he can become the elite Super Bowl contending quarterback that he's capable of being.
If he's called upon, Locker has a chance produce at a high level as he showed in games against Atlanta and New Orleans last season. Ultimately, though, his chances of doing so all year are much smaller than Hasselbeck's.
Here's just a few reasons why the Titans are better off keeping Locker on the sidelines in 2012.
Similarities to Aaron Rodgers
He was supposed to be one of the best QBs to come out of the draft in a long time before slipping out of the No. 1 overall spot. He spent the next several years playing behind a good quarterback, and had to earn his way back into the spotlight.
No, I'm not talking about Jake Locker. I'm talking about Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers slipped all the way to 24th overall in the 2005 NFL draft and sat for years behind the legendary Brett Favre. He didn't feel the pressure to start for a while since his team was in good hands.
Today, you can't mention the phrase "elite quarterback" without thinking of Rodgers. Some people would even put his names above the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning due to being just 28 and almost a decade of his prime left.
Hasselbeck is no Favre, but he's proven himself as a solid starter and is capable of leading his team to wins. The Titans may be able to sell more tickets with Locker taking snaps, but it could hurt their chances of being perennial Super Bowl contenders down the road like the Packers currently are.
Still Developing His Skills and Decision Making
Locker is a surprisingly adept scrambler who can break tackles. That skill will be extremely helpful down the road when the pass is not there, but unfortunately last season he was way too much of a run-first player.
Watching an offense with sound passing principles should help Locker understand better when to pass and when to run. It's probably easy for him to watch Hasselbeck out there sometimes and say, "I could've busted that to the outside and picked up the first down".
Watching from an outsider's perspective will greatly help that aspect of his game.
Getting thrown into the fire right from Week 1 is good for some quarterbacks (like Peyton Manning), but for one with Locker's arsenal, it isn't. He needs to develop as a passer and continue to work on his accuracy.
No-Pressure Learning Environment
You've heard it said before: Backup quarterbacks have the best jobs in the world.
Locker won't exactly be kicking up his feet on the sidelines knowing he's the future of the team, but it will allow him to learn the quarterback position in the NFL that much better.
Next year, the Titans face teams like the Patriots and the Packers, which boast the two best quarterbacks in the game in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. If he's relaxed and on the sidelines as the backup, he'll have a better chance to absorb how they play the game.
Hasselbeck came in virtually a month before the season started and captained a Titans team that desperately needed leadership with a first-year head coach and very few skilled, battle-tested veterans.
His chemistry with star receiver Kenny Britt was highly evident before Britt's torn ACL in Week Three of the 2011 season.
While Chris Johnson turned one of the most hyped seasons ever into a severely disappointing one, Hasselbeck kept the offense afloat and in prime position to compete for a playoff run.
He didn't captivate with electrifying, highlight-reel plays like Locker tended to do, but he made smart decisions and gave the Titans the best chance to win.
He will continue to do that in 2012 because he knows that Locker will be jogging out onto the field if he doesn't.
The Titans didn't sign Hasselbeck to a three-year, $20 million deal to ride the bench.