When the Tennessee Titans signed Matt Hasselbeck as a free agent in late July, it didn’t come as a huge surprise to many. After all, Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt was once the vice president of football administration for Hasselbeck’s former team, the Seattle Seahawks.
However, what some people wondered was whether or not it’s just a coincidence that Hasselbeck, who played in state of Washington for the last 10 years, will now be mentoring a born-and-raised Washington kid in Jake Locker.
That question might never be answered, but everything else about the Hasselbeck signing was 100 percent intentional in order to usher Locker into the NFL the right way. A solid 35-year-old veteran starter signs a three-year deal to give the first-round draft pick plenty of time to learn the pro game. Does that sound familiar?
If it doesn’t, you probably haven’t followed the NFL too closely over the last few years and you definitely aren’t a Green Bay Packers follower.
Brett Favre was 35 when first-round pick Aaron Rodgers began his first season watching from the sidelines as a pro. Rodgers would serve as Favre’s backup for—you guessed it—three years before the team handed him the reins to lead the Packers to an eventual Super Bowl.
Do you dare to dream that large when it comes to the Titans' future? You should, because their front office clearly had the same thing in mind when they negotiated Hasselbeck’s deal.
Even right now, the Titans might just have the best one-two quarterback punch in the NFL. Hasselbeck was one of the few reasons the Seahawks were a respectable team over the past few seasons and he might be the most underrated quarterback in the entire league. Even at his age, he has proven that he still has plenty of game left by posting 621 yards passing and a 94.2 QB rating in his first two games this season.
Locker is the highest drafted quarterback over the last four years who isn’t currently starting on an NFL team and is eager to learn from a true professional in Hasselbeck. Yes, it might be a little early in Locker’s career to project him and Hasselbeck as the best one-two punch in the league, but from what Locker showed during the preseason it certainly looks promising.
In what amounted to approximately one and a half games of action for Locker over the Titans four preseason games, he completed 32 of 49 pass attempts for 316 yards and only threw one interception.
At the very least, it’s safe to say that the Titans have their quarterback situation mapped out better than just about any other team and thus they have the perfect one-two punch.
Sure, there are other teams that might have solid veteran backups. The Giants have David Carr and the Cowboys have John Kitna, who certainly proved his value last week against the San Francisco 49ers. However, they’re both in their 30s and have zero upside compared to Locker.
The Denver Broncos can boast a first-round pick as their backup in Tim Tebow, but whom would you take as your starter between Hasselbeck and Kyle Orton? I’ll take the consistency of Hasselbeck any day of the week.
The Minnesota Vikings are the only other team that appears to be using the same QB formula as the Titans, with Donovan McNabb attempting to mentor Christian Ponder into a future starting role. However, McNabb is currently struggling as the Vikings' starter and Ponder was picked four spots below Locker in the 2011 NFL Draft, so again I’m choosing the Titans duo.
With a healthy Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, the Titans should be at least in the playoff picture for the next couple of years. This means Jake Locker’s playing experiences will be few and far between during that time, so he won’t get to prove how good of a backup he really is. However, if Locker can learn the way Aaron Rodgers did for the Packers, the Titans' formula for quarterback success will have paid off in the same way it did for the Packers.
However, for now, they have a talented youngster learning from the man he grew up cheering for in Seattle and helping create the perfect duo in Tennessee.