“At this time, all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated, including front office, coaches and players over the next seven games. If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a playoff and championship football team.”
Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams made that comment after his franchise lost 51-20 to the Chicago Bears on November 4, 2012. At the time, the Titans had a 3-6 record. They were blown out in five of those nine games. Two of those losses occurred at LP Field. They had a 0-2 record against AFC South opponents.
That evaluation is 57-percent complete. The team initially responded with a 37-3 road win over the Miami Dolphins. That success was short-lived. Coming off the bye week, the Titans lost to a Jacksonville Jaguars team who had a 1-9 record. The Titans have lost three straight games, each one coming against an AFC South rival.
Playoffs are impossible. That ship has sunk. The players, Mike Munchak and his staff are afloat on their lifeboats, trying to reach land before the storm finishes them off. That storm includes a nationally-televised home game against the New York Jets, a pre-Christmas journey to Lambeau Field, and one last opportunity to defeat a divisional foe (Jaguars).
Who has job security beyond 2012? Some players have reached shore (e.g. Alterraun Verner). They’re the exception. The last three games are critical for most of the players, coaches and executives. Two wins are a must. There’s no reason that they can’t play a competitive game against the Packers.
What about Jake Locker? At age 24, the second-year quarterback has struggled in his first season as a starter. In eight starts, Locker has a 2-6 record. He has completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 1,735 yards. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9-to-9. Since the bye week, Locker has thrown seven interceptions and lost two fumbles. He has just three passing touchdowns.
Locker is on the same lifeboat as Ruston Webster, Mike Reinfeldt and Munchak. If all three of those men survive, then Locker survives. If just one of those three survive, then Locker probably survives.
What if none of those three survive? From top to bottom, Adams may decide that this organization needs a complete overhaul. At age 90 (January 2013), there’s no telling how he’ll try to craft this into a playoff contender. Adams has yet to win a Super Bowl in his lifetime. How desperate is he?
The current regime is committed to Locker. It’s their only choice. They drafted him with the eighth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. If Locker succeeds, then they succeed. If Locker fails, then he’s the anchor that will drag all of them to the bottom of the ocean.
A new head coach or general manager won’t have that kind of obligation. Not unless Adams forced them into an ultimatum. A new regime may covet their own guy. Instead of character, they may place greater emphasis on accuracy, durability and reading defenses.
Locker’s struggles aren’t entirely dismissible because of his inexperience. Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have shown that quarterbacks can thrive straight out of college. Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick has played well for the San Francisco 49ers. In his rookie season, Matt Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs. During his first season as a starting quarterback, Tom Brady won his first of three Super Bowls.
Here’s the point. Locker should win the starting quarterback job in 2013. However, it’s not a lock. That’s why these last three games are important. Locker isn’t playing for his job security with the current regime as much as he’s playing for job security for a new regime. He must string together some good games.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. From 2009-10, Huffman completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. He has been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. Twitter HERE.
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