It's the question every Tennessee Titans fan wants answered.
Can the team progress with Mike Munchak as the head coach and Jake Locker as the quarterback?
Since 2011, when Munchak was hired as Tennessee's head coach and Locker was selected in the first round of the draft, the Titans haven't made the playoffs and have mustered only one season above .500.
Let's examine if Munchak and/or Locker should be kept for 2014.
From a natural talent perspective, Locker doesn't leave much to be desired. At the 2011 NFL Combine, the University of Washington product measured in at 6'3'' and 231 pounds and ran an impressive 4.59 in the 40-yard dash.
He tested out as one of the most athletic signal-callers in his class in other speed and agility drills, as well.
Locker's hand size was only 9 5/8'', not exactly a catcher's mitt, but not frighteningly small for an NFL quarterback.
He played on mainly sub-par teams in college and dealt with sporadic accuracy in Seattle.
But Locker has a strong arm and doesn't have any abnormal hitch in his delivery.
Though he demonstrated a great deal of toughness at the collegiate level, he's been plagued with injuries early in his professional career.
Here's a look at how Locker's progressed in the NFL:
(*Accuracy Percentage "accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball - factors that hurt the quarterback's completion percentage but don't help show how accurate they are.")
The noticeable improvement in touchdown percentage and interception percentage is certainly encouraging, especially after an injury derailed his first year as the full-time starter in Tennessee.
He'll only be 26 in June, so age isn't necessarily a factor in deciding whether or not he can become the Titans' franchise quarterback.
|Jake Locker's NFL Stats|
|Games Played||Attempts||Completion %||Accuracy %||Yards Per Attempt||TD %||INT %|
|Pro Football Reference and Pro Football Focus|
While Locker is a fine athlete capable of running some read-option and scrambling when protection breaks down, following the slew of injuries he's suffered in the NFL, he'd put himself in the best position to succeed if he reverts to being almost solely a pocket passer.
Because he showed progression in the decision-making and accuracy departments in 2013, there's reason to believe he'll continue to develop in 2014.
The injuries are worrisome, however.
If the Titans believe Locker is injury prone, then it'd be nearly impossible to retain him beyond 2014—when his rookie contract expires—and as only a $3.43 cap hit next year, they could cut ties this upcoming offseason.
If the Titans believe Locker's injuries have simply been the result of a string of bad luck, there's a glimmer of hope to believe in him long-term and, at least, give him a fair shot to prove himself next season.
Munchak's case is pretty cut and dry. Unlike Locker, he's shown no improvement during his three-year stint in Tennessee.
He's 20-26 as a head coach, and the Titans haven't made the playoffs in his tenure.
In 2011, Tennessee went 9-7 with Matt Hasselbeck as the primary starter at quarterback.
The next year, the team regressed to 6-10.
Sure, injuries at the quarterback position could be used as a reasonable crutch for Munchak to keep his job, but here's a look at first and second round picks Tennessee has made during his time with the Titans:
- 2011: quarterback Jake Locker, linebacker Akeem Ayers
- 2012: wide Receiver Kendall Wright, linebacker Zach Brown
- 2013: guard Chance Warmack, wide receiver Justin Hunter
Over that span, the Titans added the following free agents:
- defensive end Kamerion Wimbley
- guard Steve Hutchinson
- guard Andy Levitre
- tight end Delanie Walker
- safety Bernard Pollard
- safety George Wilson
- running back Shonn Greene
- buard Rob Turner
Essentially, Munchak hasn't led a team devoid of talent in key areas.
When it comes to being a head coach, it's all about wins and losses.
Three years has become the de facto deadline for head coaches in today's NFL, and Munchak simply hasn't won enough since 2011 to be kept around.
Jake Locker's 2014 prospects shouldn't be the reason Titans renew their season tickets, but due to the injuries he's labored through, it's hard to come to a concrete conclusion on him.
The improvement he exhibited in 2013 will be his greatest bargaining chip heading into next season.
Having said that, Munchak's three-year resume in Tennessee will probably get him fired, and the new head coach will likely scour the collegiate ranks for his quarterback in the 2014 draft.
Remember, holdovers from previous regimes can become dispensable rather quickly.
To truly move forward as an organization, the Tennessee Titans should fire Mike Munchak, but they're in a position to give Locker one more chance to prove himself next season.