Despite a spotty performance in his first preseason start this year, Jake Locker was named the Titans’ starting quarterback for the 2012 season.
In announcing that Locker had won the job over Matt Hasselbeck, 36, the team’s starter last season, head coach Mike Munchak told reporters on Monday afternoon that “This is the best thing for the team for the whole season,” according to a quote posted on the team’s verified Twitter account. Locker went 4-for-11 for 21 yards and an interception with no touchdowns in a 30-7 preseason win over Tampa Bay on Friday.
Munchak also said of Locker that “his time is now.”
Locker said winning the job was “a fulfillment of a childhood dream.”
“But it’s not going to change my approach,” Locker said in a quote posted on the team’s Twitter feed.
After practice on Sunday, Munchak was evasive on when he would announce a starter, saying that he could take as long as the week leading up to the team’s season opener with New England on Sept. 9. In fact, he said of the decision, “you want to let things play out as long as you can and make the best decision for the team,” according to quotes posted on the team’s website.
On Sunday, Munchak said a gut decision is “always part of” the decision-making process.
“I think when you are projecting players on what you think is going to happen from what you see, you have to have a feel for what you are doing and why you are doing it,” he said, “so that is something I will explain to you all and I will explain to them.”
Locker, 24, is 11-for-24 for 101 yards with an interception and no touchdowns in the preseason. He also had two rushes for 24 yards in Friday’s win. His ability to run the ball gives the Titans’ offense more options, especially with some uncertainty on the offensive line. Last year’s starting center Eugene Amano was lost for the season to a knee injury a few weeks ago.
Locker, at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, was selected eighth overall by the Titans in 2011 out of Washington. As a rookie backing up Hasselbeck, he played in five games, going 34-of-66 with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Munchak said he expected Locker to get about 40 reps against Arizona in the team’s third preseason game.
Last week Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said he was looking for Locker’s continued growth as a player in the Bucs game. The Titans must have seen it.
“Be in a situation where he manages the situation,” Palmer said of what he wanted to see. “He hasn’t started a game in over a year, so now he’s going to be the starter and how is he going react to being a starter? Is he going to be under control and handling the situation or is he nervous? It’ll be interesting to see how all of that unfolds.”
Locker was prescient in saying how statistics don’t matter much to him.
“I’m not into stats,” he said last week. “There’s one stat that matters. So, you know, completion percentage and such doesn’t matter much to me. At the end of the day, you want to win games. Whether you’re completing quote-unquote what you need to be completing percentage-wise or you’re finding ways to win games, I don’t think there’s any difference between the two. So I don’t put a lot of weight into that and I never will.”
Hasselbeck, who has been supportive of Locker and mentored him, had a poor performance in the team’s preseason opener at Seattle and struggled at times with injuries last season. He is scheduled to earn $9 million this season.
Munchak said Hasselbeck handled the decision “like a pro.”
“As hard as it was for me to hear, at the same time I’m excited for Jake,” Hasselbeck said, according to the Titans’ twitter address.