On Titans minus Locker, with Polian insight
November, 11, 2013
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Official word on Jake Locker’s status won’t arrive until later this afternoon.
But The Tennessean reported after the game he looked to be finished with a Lisfranc injury and I followed up with a source saying it was 99 percent certain Locker’s season was over.
Fair or not, Locker’s going to be labeled injury prone now. I think it’s a combination of injury prone and unlucky, but good quarterbacks in the NFL know how to minimize their chances of getting hurt, and he’s failed in that area.
In 2012, when he took over the starting job, he didn’t see a blitzing Glover Quin of the Houston Texans and got his non-throwing shoulder driven into the ground. It cost Locker five starts.
On Sept. 29 in his second season as the starter, he took a combo hit from the Jets and was stretchered off the field with what turned out to be a sprained right hip and a sprained right knee.
That cost him two starts.
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsThe Titans will surely miss the athleticism of quarterback Jake Locker.
Now he stands to miss seven more games with the right foot issue.
That would mean in two seasons as a starter he will have missed 14 games, 44 percent of his possible starts.
For a team looking to build around a young, growing quarterback, it’s very difficult when he’s not there.
ESPN analyst Bill Polian was at the Titans' loss to the Jaguars. I spoke to him at halftime, after Locker was hurt but before we knew the extent of the injury.
His overall assessment of Locker: “Strong arm, very athletic despite the fact he was hampered, he can make all the throws. The learning curve is hampered because he’s been injured. He’s in his third year, but he’s really only played two because of injury, not even. That’s the long and short if it. I think he can make all the plays, I think he can extend plays. Once he gets really keyed in on what he has to do and who’s open and anticipating stuff rather than having to react to it, he’ll be good.”
Polian has a broad vision of the timetable for a young quarterback. A rare group are able to accelerate the process, but for most, he says, the learning curve goes like this:
“Year 1, they find their way to the lunch room and the locker room. Year 2, they figure out what it is you’re trying to do. Year 3, they begin to figure out what the other team is trying to do. Then in Year 4 they can put their hands on the steering wheel and operate the whole system.
“Locker is really only in Year 2 because of injuries. So you’ve got to take that into consideration. No fan wants to hear that, I understand, but that’s the business."
In the meantime, if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Titans quarterback the rest of the way, his success will come down to one major factor.
“The question is, with Fitz, will he take care of the ball?” Polian said. “If he does that, he’s as good a backup quarterback as there is in the league.”
Maybe the Titans can salvage the season with a streaky backup, who will have easier games than he did when he was poor against Kansas City and Seattle.
But once again, the franchise has to hit the pause button on Locker. And pause is a tough spot to be in a league where the preferred setting is fast-forward.