Jake Locker Out In Tennessee, Rookie Zach Mettenberger InBy Amber Lee
On Thursday first-year Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed reports from earlier in the week that rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a two-year starter out of LSU who was drafted in the sixth round this year, had been named the starter for this weekend and moving forward.
An announcement that likely marks the end of the Jake Locker era in Tennessee. A four-year starter out of Washington, Locker was drafted No. 8 overall by the Titans in 2011. The four years he’s spent in Nashville have been tumultuous at best, mired by injury and inconsistency.
Although pulling the plug on a first round draft pick, especially at the quarterback position, is never an easy decision, the move doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as the writing has been on the wall for awhile now.
Mike Munchak, who drafted Locker as one of his first big moves after being hired to replace Jeff Fisher in 2011, was fired in January after failing to reach the postseason for three-straight years—an impressive drought that predated him by two years. And with the Titans currently 2-5, one that will almost certainly extend to 2015, if not beyond.
Locker was kept on by Whisenhunt and managed to win the starting job in training camp, but wasn’t exactly given a vote a confidence by the team, which in April declined to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract. Meaning the Titans have no financial commitment to Locker come January.
Locker has missed three games this season with a thumb injury, though it seems Whisenhunt has already seen enough of him and backup Charlie Whitehurst. Mettenberger is a complete unknown and getting a look at him sooner, rather than later, will give the powers that be in Tennessee a much better idea of where they stand after the season.
At this point, Whisenhunt, whose grace period will surely extend more than one year, doesn’t have much to lose. Maybe Mettenberger will show enough potential to be considered a possible longterm starter, which would be great news. Maybe he’ll prove he doesn’t have a chance in hell at securing the job longterm, which would be great news if it means they don’t waste time in acting to replace him.
Hitting on a sixth round draft pick is rare—Tom Bradys do not grow on trees—so Whisenhunt won’t be shackled to Mettenberger the same way Munchak was to Locker. Right now he’s simply the only guy remaining on the roster who hasn’t completely ruled himself out of the Titans plans for the future.
That may not provide much of an ego boost to Mettenberger, but at least he won’t have to worry about being buried by expectations.