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VOL. 7 | NO. 40 | Saturday, September 27, 2014

McCormick

Terry McCormick

Everyone Wants Locker to Succeed, But Can He?

TERRY McCORMICK | The Ledger

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Perhaps the best thing that Jake Locker has going for him right now is Coach Ken Whisenhunt’s profession of faith.

There is no question that virtually everyone at St. Thomas Sports Park is pulling for Locker to make good in his final chance to be the Titans long-term answer at quarterback.

He says the right things, does the right things and exhibits the type of toughness and leadership a team desires in a franchise quarterback.

In addition, he isn’t your typical big-time athlete. Locker exhibits a down-to-earth caring side that appears genuine. It’s hard not to root for him.

But as Locker, Whisenhunt and everyone associated with the Titans knows, that only goes so far and only earns so many chances.

And after a strong start in Kansas City, Locker and the Titans have fallen back to earth with back-to-back sub-par performances.

LOCKER

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

To compound matters, Locker, who has missed 14 games the past two years since assuming the Titans starting quarterback spot, is in question again after Whisenhunt revealed on Monday that the quarterback has a sore wrist on his throwing arm following Sunday’s 33-7 beat down in Cincinnati.

Whisenhunt, who became known as something of a quarterback guru for most of his career, has plenty of success stories on his resume. He also has a reputation of having a quick trigger finger if things aren’t going according to plan.

At least outwardly, Whisenhunt, became an admirer and defender of Locker during the off-season, buying the quarterback’s work ethic and dedication. That has continued through the early part of the regular season.

Whisenhunt now says he wants to have patience with Locker in the offense, something that hasn’t always come easy for the coach.

As the Arizona Cardinals head coach, he quickly gave up on former first-round pick Matt Leinart as the starter and replaced him with what was thought to be a washed-up Kurt Warner.

The result in 2008 was the Cardinals’ only Super Bowl appearance.

After Warner retired, Whisenhunt’s downfall was that he could not find a suitable replacement, unable or unwilling to settle on any one guy from a group that included Kevin Kolb, Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall.

And it played a part in Whisenhunt being shown the door in a housecleaning after the 2012 season.

Back to the Titans, Whisenhunt needs Locker to shed his inconsistency of the past two weeks if Tennessee is going to dig out of an early 1-2 hole and make any sort of run toward contention in 2014, because the other options are limited.

Charlie Whitehurst is a career backup who hasn’t thrown a regular-season pass in three years, while Zach Mettenberger is an untested rookie, who while he had his moments in preseason, is still exactly that – an untested rookie.

If any September game can be labeled “critical,” then this week’s road trip to Indianapolis is that.

The Colts, even though they have the same record as the Titans, are expected to be the class of the AFC South, and routed Jacksonville 44-17 last week.

If there were any questions about Andrew Luck in the first two games, they were answered with 385 yards passing and four touchdowns – numbers the likes of which the Titans franchise has rarely seen from a quarterback in two-tone blue.

Entering the game, the Titans look to be already bordering on disarray with spotty play on offense and Locker’s availability and effectiveness in question again.

“There’s not a situation of panic with me, and there’s not a situation of panic with this team,” Whisenhunt says. “I was in this situation with San Diego last year. We started off 1-2.

“Are we putting our head in the sand and saying everything is OK? We’re not (happy) with the status quo. We’re not happy with what happened yesterday or last week.

“I believe our team got the message in our meeting, and I believe our players got the message that we’re gonna work to get it corrected.”

Getting the message is one thing. Carrying it out may prove a little more challenging.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.

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