We are here to figure out what the best way is to get this rookie to reach his potential as a quarterback in the NFL.
In order to do this, the Titans’ brass needs to learn from the mistakes it made in the past with Vince Young and put Locker on a five-step quarterback development plan that they have benefited from in the past.
I'd like to call this “The Steve McNair Plan.“
The first step is to get a more-than-capable veteran quarterback to step in and play immediately, which they have done by inking Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year deal. This is an especially important step in the process this year with the short offseason and time at a premium.
The Titans gain nothing from tossing Locker out there and having him try and figure it out on the fly. He needs to sit back and soak up as much information up as he can. He needs to learn how a true professional like Hasselbeck handles the duties of being a quarterback a day-to-day basis. Not being on the field will allow him to concentrate on developing a firm understanding of the playbook all while getting acclimated to the speed of the game and becoming the face of a franchise.
When McNair came into the league as a highly-drafted signal-caller, he was placed right behind Chris Chandler on the depth chart. This took some pressure off his shoulders and let him learn the nuances of the position. As the season went on he was given small spurts of playing time, which helped him gain some game experience to work with.
Front-office stability and consistency is something the Titans have done an excellent job with in the past.
This will be the first year since the franchise moved to Nashville that Jeff Fisher will not be the head coach.
He was there for more than 16 full seasons. Tenures like that are unheard of. Even though a situation like that will likely not repeat itself, consistency with the coaching staff was a huge factor in what helped make McNair become so successful and will play a huge role in how Locker’s future plays out with the franchise.
If you need an example of how big of a role this aspect of the plan plays in the development of a quarterback, look no further than the San Francisco 49ers. They selected Alex Smith first overall in the 2005 draft. He then went on to have six different offensive coordinators in his next six seasons and is widely considered one of the biggest busts of the last decade.
Is it simply because of the lack of franchise stability or is it because of Smith's actual ability? Nobody will ever know. But either way, he was not given much of a chance, and that is the core problem.
The next step is to give Locker some quality tools to work with when he does find himself under center. No matter how good the quarterback is, he cannot be successful alone. Look at McNair as an example.
When he started hitting his stride in this league, he had a premier running back in Eddie George with a great offensive line, as well as adequate receivers and a good pass-catching tight end in Frank Wycheck. Creating a situation like this in a small market is not always easy. But this is exactly the situation Locker needs to be in, and to be honest, they may not be that far off.
Some of the tools are already be in place. The Titans already have a premier running back in Chris Johnson along with some promising wide receiving prospects led by Kenny Britt (assuming he can stay out of legal trouble).
If you team that with the fact that Coach Munchack is a very good offensive line coach, maybe he can mold those hogs up front to be a upper-echelon unit in this league sooner than later. If these pieces are to fall into place, they will give any quarterback the best chance of being successful.
Now let's jump ahead to when Locker actually is given the job as starting quarterback of this squad. This is something that ideally will not happen this year, and maybe not until his third year depending on how the situation shakes out.
But whenever this happens, there will for sure be growing pains just like with any quarterback, and it will take time for him to adjust. Things may not be pretty at first, but they rarely are. Fans need to be patient.
If you need some evidence of this, just look at the first-year Steve McNair took the field as a full-time starter. It was his third year in the league, and he threw only one more touchdown than he did interception.
Even with all that time to sit and learn, he still did not come out guns blazin'. If that is not enough, how about the fact that Troy Aikman threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, while also leading the Cowboys to a dismal 1-15 record in his first year. These are two of the all-time greats, and they started out on a rocky road.
The job needs to be his and no one else’s so he can develop. And he needs to know this.
Hopefully, if nurtured and developed properly, Locker has the drive inside him to live up to his billing as a top 10 pick.
By all accounts, he is a great guy and wants nothing less than to be the best, but that alone is not what gets it done.
The franchise needs to handle him properly and give him the best chance to succeed and take his time to develop.
That is where “The McNair Plan” that was just outlined comes into play. They did not put Vince Young on such a plan, and we saw how that turned out. Quarterback is probably the toughest position in all of sports to excel at; it just takes time.
Sometimes we all need to be reminded that patience is a virtue.
Does he have it him? Only time will tell. What we do know is Mike Munchak hopes he does.