For Titans, worst need at worst time

February, 26, 2011
2/26/11
10:28
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jake Locker declared it a great time to be a quarterback coming out of college and he’s right.

At least 11 teams need one.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireJake Locker is among the QB prospects the Titans will be evaluating as they look for a new starter.
No one’s need is bigger than the Tennessee Titans. They have blanks at No. 1 and No. 2 and intend to find a veteran and a rookie.

As there is no better time to be a quarterback coming out, there is no worse time to have holes at the spot. A prolonged lockout would mean it’ll be a long time before new coordinator Chris Palmer gets to work with the additions. And whatever sort of player-organized work may go on won’t be organized by a quarterback for the Titans, unless second-year man Rusty Smith -- he of one failed start -- takes on an incredible leadership burden for a guy of his stature.

“We all know it’s a quarterback league, and that’s the No. 1 spot to have,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We feel we have some great support staff around our quarterback who are very strong on our team, but there is no doubt we have uncertainty there. There are so many ways you can go. And you just have to wait until you find that person. Unfortunately, there is more than one team in that situation going into this season. That’s probably the toughest position to have to find.”

It’s so bad for the Titans that a perennially quarterback-starved team like Detroit that had the same 6-10 record is in a considerably better position than Tennessee -- though Matthew Stafford’s health remains a big question.

"[Drafting Stafford] allowed us to select personnel," Schwartz said. "You're not spinning your wheels. If you don't have a quarterback, you're drafting maybe a different kind of running back, maybe a different kind of offensive lineman, than if you have somebody. We had Calvin Johnson. But our ability to get Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson in free agency, to draft Brandon Pettigrew -- those pieces were because of the quarterback that we have. You're probably not going to run the ball 45 times per game when you have a quarterback that you want the ball in his hands.

"So in order to make progress, in order to fit guys to where they're going to be, in order to fit guys to a job description, you need to know what that job description is going to be. Having a quarterback settles a lot of that, knowing what that quarterback can do, knowing his ability to make throws, knowing his ability to process things, those kinds of things, it's all very important.

"The quarterback is the most important position on the team, and if you're strong at that position, you can overcome weaknesses at other positions."

Right now, it’s hard to envision the Titans being strong at the position, though they could hit a home run when they do bring guys in. That puts more strain on everyone else on offense -- a line that needs to return to form, an explosive back in Chris Johnson and an intriguing wide receiver in Kenny Britt who could be premier, a young tight end in Jared Cook who’s due to produce.

Schwartz, once a Titans assistant and then defensive coordinator, sounded sympathetic to his old colleague, Munchak.

“I’m sure that would be difficult,” he said. “I’m glad we’re not in that position.”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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