Speaking at the owners meeting in Orlando, Fla., Whisenhunt fielded questions about Locker.
“He knows what’s at stake,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s got to perform.”
At a different point in his breakfast meeting with reporters, he talked more extensively about Locker.
“One thing I like about him is I’ve seen improvement in his play over the last few years,” Whisenhunt said. “He hasn’t played enough, that’s the hard thing. You’d like to have a little bit more to evaluate. One of the things that I think is important when you’re evaluating is, where was he three years ago and where was he this past season? And his play has improved. What I saw from him last year in the third game of the season when (the Chargers) played in Tennessee, I was impressed by that. Maybe that’s clouded my judgment since I’m with the team, but I was impressed.”
First impressions and the way a quarterback carries himself are always big, and Locker did well in those departments -- way back in February 2011.
“I think when I flew in to Indianapolis for 2011 for the combine, you know how you’ll get those fights where players are on,” Whisenhunt said. “He was on my flight. I didn’t know it, and I was at baggage claim waiting on my bags and he came up and spoke to me. That struck me because -- I don’t know if you know Jake or not -- but there is nothing disingenuous about him. He’s very genuine.
“It was a very genuine thing. He said, ‘Hey coach, you do a great job, blah blah blah.’ And I was impressed that he would do that because that’s not a comfortable situation. As far as quarterbacks, that’s one of the qualities I think that’s important that I was impressed with. Naturally, you’re going to watch those guys as they progress. I have, just because of the quarterback position.
"Trying to put all of that aside, just in watching what I’ve seen on tape, before he got injured last season, after the first five or six games, whatever it was, his play had improved. (It was four games.) No turnovers, smart football, extended the play. Now were there things I think he can do better? Sure. There are technique things we can get corrected. ...But that to me is an important part of it, but that’s why I am so encouraged by it.”
It’s the time of year to be encouraged, for sure.
This year could be Locker’s last stand with the Titans. His coach says the quarterback understands what is at stake. The stage on which he gets to prove he’s the guy is going to be set for him.