Titans Sign Charlie Whitehurst, Why Do Teams Continue to Pay QB?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 13, 2014

San Diego Chargers' Charlie Whitehurst warms up before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The Tennessee Titans are one of a number of NFL teams with an unsettled situation at quarterback, a situation that the team took steps to address in free agency on Thursday.

However, the manner in which the Titans addressed it has many pundits and fans shaking their heads, because it looks like Charlie Whitehurst has Jedi mind-tricked another NFL team into giving him several million dollars.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean was among the first to break the news that Whitehurst had inked a two-year deal with the Titans:

It's a signing that drew more than a little reaction from Twitter, and most of it was snarky:

And when I say snarky, I mean snarky:

That sarcasm isn't without some foundation in truth. 2014 will mark Whitehurst's ninth NFL season, his third NFL team and the continuation of a career rooted in...

Well, no one really knows what it's rooted in.

Charlie Whitehurst Career Stats
Per Pro Football Reference

After a standout career at Clemson, Whitehurst was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft. He played four seasons for the Chargers, attempting a grand total of zero regular-season passes.

That impressive resume was enough for the Seattle Seahawks to deal a third-round pick and swap second-rounders with the Chargers in 2010 for Whitehurst, at which point they signed him to a two-year, $8 million deal.

At the time, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll lauded the move, according to Adam Schefter and John Clayton of ESPN:

"We are all about competition," Carroll said. "Charlie has tremendous talent and upside and we are very excited to watch him develop and help our football team."

Over his two years in Seattle, Whitehurst made four starts, completing 54 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and four interceptions. Whitehurst won one of those four games.

By 2012, Whitehurst had fallen out of favor with the Seahawks, and as ESPN reported, it was back to the Chargers for two more seasons (and $4 million).

It was also back to clipboard duty. Whitehurst didn't attempt a regular-season pass in either of the past two seasons.

Grantland's Bill Barnwell compared Whitehurst's passing attempts to his paychecks to this point in his NFL career, and the results were staggering:

Now, it's on to Nashville, where Whitehurst is expected to supplant Ryan Fitzpatrick as Jake Locker's backup:

The 31-year-old Fitzpatrick, who is owed a $500,000 roster bonus this week, started nine games for the Titans last year, throwing for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Career Stats
Per Pro Football Reference

Fitzpatrick is many things. He's a low-upside signal-caller who doesn't have a plus arm or mobility. He's thrown 93 career interceptions.

He's also started 77 games in the NFL and has a career passer rating over 10 points higher than Whitehurst's.

In short, folks looking for Whitehurst to be some huge upgrade on Fitzpatrick need to stop looking into Whitehurst's eyes.

"These aren't the droids you're looking for."

But wait, it gets better:

Yes, there are those who think Whitehurst might challenge Locker for the starting job for the Titans.

Mind you, in no way, shape or form is this meant to be an endorsement of Locker, who has been inconsistent and injury-prone for the Titans. Even Locker conceded to Wyatt (via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk) that he isn't taking his role as starter for granted:

You are competing for a job every day, whether you are announced the starter or not. So it doesn’t change how I approach day in and day out, and it won’t change how I go to practice. I am always pretending I am competing for a job because you are pushing yourself that way.

Listen, Locker may well not be "the answer" at quarterback for the Titans in the long term, but that doesn't change the fact that Locker threw as many touchdown passes in last September's win over the New York Jets as Whitehurst has tossed in eight years.

Yes, Whitehurst knows new head coach Ken Whisenhunt's offense from their time together in San Diego last year. The team is also overhauling the defense and doesn't have much cap room ($11.4 million per Spotrac) with which to do it.

However, the Titans aren't saving much coin here. Fitzpatrick's $4.125 million cap number in 2014 is nearly identical to the average salary on Whitehurst's deal.

So, rather than having one of the league's most experienced backups behind a starting quarterback who has missed at least five games in each of his three NFL seasons, the Titans now have Whitehurst, who hasn't started five games in nearly a decade.

At least they didn't save any money doing it.