In case you haven't been paying attention, Andrew Luck
has helped the Colts secure a playoff berth. Russell Wilson
has done the same for the Seahawks. Robert Griffin
III has the Redskins a win away from winning the NFC East.
And according to Nashville Tennessean beat writer Jim Wyatt, the success of those three rookie quarterbacks who exceeded expectations have magnified Jake Locker’s struggles in his first season as an NFL starter.
The Titans are 3-7 with Locker under center, and his numbers down the stretch have stirred up more questions than answers about his future.
“It’s not how I would’ve wished they had gone,” the second-year pro said Wednesday. “But there are a lot of positives to be taken from it, and a lot of things that you can learn from and grow from to make you better going forward.”
The Titans expected Locker to settle in and make strides after backing up Matt Hasselbeck last season. But after missing five games because of a dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder, he has been unable to gain traction.
In the five games since he returned and led a 37-3 win over the Dolphins on Nov. 11, Locker has thrown nine interceptions, four touchdowns and posted no passer rating above 79.5.
Head coach Mike Munchak is quick to defend Locker, saying some of the problems resulted from injuries on the offensive line — Locker has been sacked 19 times in the past five games — and other players failing to deliver.
“I don’t know if it’s him being shaky; I think the team is shaky,” Munchak said. “The support around him isn’t great. ... There are a lot of factors that go into it.”
That said, the eighth overall pick of the 2011 draft has had good moments.
Wyatt reminded readers that before his injury, he threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns in a win against the Lions in overtime.
In his first game back he provided a spark against the Dolphins, helping the Titans snap a two-game losing streak.
He’s consistently made plays running from the pocket.
Yet there have been numerous blunders as well as missed opportunities to guide game-winning drives.
Locker turned in arguably his worst game at Green Bay last week, throwing two interceptions and posting a 41.0 rating in a 55-7 defeat.
Heading into a critical offseason for Locker and the Titans, the team would like to see him end the year with confidence in the form of a strong showing in the season finale against the Jaguars.
“It’s hard to evaluate someone because you don’t know how much all these other circumstances factor in. It’s hard to say how much having a whole new offensive line in front of you factored in to him not making certain throws. It’s hard to tell,” Munchak said. “You’d like to be able to evaluate someone when we’re hopefully at more full strength.
“He’s got to play better and the whole offense has to play better. … It starts with the quarterback, and Jake understands that.”
Of course, as Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt suggested, Munchak should defend him, since their futures could be linked. Owner Bud Adams has already put the lot of them on notice, and said he wanted to hear from Munchak why they’ve regressed.
Using the “developmental quarterback” strategy could buy Munchak another year, even as other quarterbacks are getting it done immediately.