On insulated QBs and self-criticism

June, 15, 2012
6/15/12
1:22
PM ET
When a team invests a high draft pick or big dollars or both in a quarterback, he’s the chosen one.

Super rare is in-house criticism of The Man.

If a coach says something negative, he’s saying something bad about a guy he’s reliant on, and that’s rarely kosher in the NFL.

If a GM admits to some shortcoming in the QB, he opens himself up to criticism for selecting the guy in the first place.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Jim Brown/US PresswireJake Locker continues to show signs of his maturation as the Titans' quarterback.
If a teammate “knocks” his quarterback, it might be seen as candor by people like me, but it’s unlikely to be well received by the aforementioned coach and GM.

In this environment, just one guy is left to be at least semi-critical of the quarterback: The quarterback.

While he might get ripped by columnists and talk show hosts, and he might face harsh reviews in closed-doors meetings, he’s the beneficiary of major public support from everyone in his office.

Before he earns his stripes, that can be incredibly annoying -- to the media, to another quarterback on the roster who might be faring better in certain areas, to receivers being blamed for failing to catch balls that are not well thrown, by linemen getting killed for sacks that may not be entirely their fault, etc.

One thing that goes a long, long way in offsetting the potential for any of that is an honest, self-critical quarterback.

I’ve not covered anyone better at that than Steve McNair. GM Floyd Reese, coach Jeff Fisher and the Titans never said a bad word about McNair, and high praise of the franchise quarterback came from every corner of the organization.

But McNair was self-critical, never pointing a finger and always taking the blame, even for stuff that clearly was not his fault.

He evolved into a high-quality quarterback.

On his way there, his public perception was influenced a great deal by his willingness to say things about his game that no one else would say. It helped buy him good will and patience from fans and media, and those things are helpful when you consider how we've seen universal criticism from the outside impact so many other quarterbacks.

I don’t believe McNair made a conscious decision to do that, I think it was just his personality.

Others should consider following that example, even if it's not in their DNA.

If everyone will defend you no matter what, then step forward and acknowledge your shortcomings. Don’t be defensive when asked a reasonable question about a bad play, a bad series, a bad game or a bad habit. Take it on. Own it. Value accountability.

Jake Locker hasn’t had a lot of playing time yet for the Titans, but he is the franchise's next anointed quarterback.

Indications from those around him are that he has shown that high-level accountability about him.

Today, I read a small hint that that will be the case.

No. 1 draft pick Kendall Wright hurt his right shoulder Thursday at minicamp when he dived for a pass from Locker and landed awkwardly.

Look what Locker said, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

“That’s my fault. I always hate to see a guy get injured trying to make a play. He made a great effort at it, and I hope it’s nothing serious.”

That comment is not a huge one. And I’m hardly ready to say Locker will be like McNair in the accountability department. But it’s food for thought as we watch his career arc and the sort of thing I'd love to hear out of more quarterback's mouths.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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