The Tennessee Titans have named 2011 first-round draft pick Jake Locker the team's starting quarterback, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. And by doing so, they made a decision that will better the future of the franchise.
While it's not good news for veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who was last year's No. 1 QB, the time has come to see the Titans' promising investment pay off.
The Tennessean's Wyatt indicates that the 24-year-old Locker has outplayed the 36-year-old Hasselbeck when given reps this preseason. Wyatt compared the numbers:
Locker has completed 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) passes for 101 yards and an interception in the preseason while Hasselebeck is 9-of-14 (64.3 percent) for 74 yards and two interceptions in the two games. Locker’s passer rating in the preseason is 40.5, compared to 38.1 for Hasselbeck.
Overall, however, Locker has had a solid training camp. In practices, he’s thrown just three interceptions in training camp practices, compared to 11 for Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck started all 16 games last season after signing a three-year, $20 million deal with the team.
As a 14-year pro, Hasselbeck has the experience to help the team win now. Yet Locker has an opportunity to become the organization's field general for years to come.
Every NFL team undergoes growing pains at some point. Now it's Tennessee's turn.
That's not to say that Locker will fail, however. As a rookie last season, the Washington product subbed into five games, completed four touchdowns, tossed no interceptions and collected a rushing score.
Locker didn't make many big mistakes, but he didn't make many big plays, either. His completion rate was a rough 51.5 percent on a total of 66 attempts.
In contrast, the aging Hasselbeck threw for over 3,500 yards, 18 touchdowns, 14 interceptions in 16 games last year—compiling a completion percentage of 61.6.
Hasselbeck kept the Titans in contention last year, as the team finished with a 9-7 record and just missed the postseason. However, it's time to let the three-time Seattle Seahawk Pro Bowl selection step aside. If he continues to buy into the system, he could be a great mentor for his inexperienced successor.
Another reason why the change at quarterback makes sense is the state of the franchise. Has a drastic improvement been made this offseason to warrant the team sticking with Hasselbeck? ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky explains:
This is probably not a playoff team with Hasselbeck at the helm. I don’t think it’ll be a playoff team with Locker, either. But there is more upside with Locker, who can do more, and it's a choice that helps you build for the long term.
One point of contingency is how the team will react to a poor performance by Locker. Will the coaching staff be patient? Or will there be a short leash on No. 10?
It might be damaging to put Hasselbeck back in the starting role because of what it would do to a prospect still learning the ropes of the NFL game. When a club opts to go with its unseasoned talent, it has to commit for the long term.
That's a matter that the Titans must closely manage with Locker. His progression hinges on confidence and an ability to learn from his miscues.
The sooner Locker gets acclimated to the speed of the NFL game, the sooner the Titans will be back in the playoffs. The future is now for the Tennessee Titans.