Titans better with vet or kid as backup QB?

May, 30, 2014
May 30
2:37
PM ET
A veteran backup quarterback with some experience and who can play without much practice is regarded by a lot of coaches and general managers as a necessity.

But how often recently have we seen such a player step in and win?

[+] EnlargeCharlie Whitehurst & Zach Mettenberger
Mark Humphrey/AP PhotoThe Tennessee Titans will have backup quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst (12) and rookie Zach Mettenberger in the fold this coming season.
ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert suggests teams are better off going with a developmental backup with potential to blossom than a guy who's proven over time he's not starting caliber.

It's an interesting way to look at things.

Says Seifert:
The career backup, a veteran who has played enough to prove he isn't a starter but is still valued as a fill-in, should be a quaint notion in 2014. Smart teams are using the spot as a developmental rather than caretaker position, understanding how rare it is to find a veteran backup who can maintain a team's performance when the starter is injured...

So what does this mean for the league overall? If you've committed to a starter, as roughly 26 of the 32 teams already have for 2014, it makes sense to prioritize development behind him rather than fool yourself into thinking you can prepare more reliably for his absence.

The Titans have picked from both serving dishes.

Charlie Whitehurst is the veteran with little experience and even less success, but he's been around and knows what Ken Whisenhunt wants, especially since they worked together last season in San Diego.

Zach Mettenberger is the guy they are hoping to develop, a quarterback out of LSU with a big arm who the Titans had graded as at least a fourth-rounder and got in the sixth.

Jake Locker has shown a propensity for getting hurt in his three seasons in the league. History and the odds suggest he's not going to make it 16 games.

I think the Titans believe they'll be best with Whitehurst in relief if Locker gets hurt. But then if Locker is out for a stretch and Mettenberger has progressed, they could play him given a week to shape a game plan for him and a full week of first-team practice snaps.

The trouble with the developmental guy at the start is the workload. The Titans will break in half and run concurrent practices with two units doing the same work, which will help Mettenberger get snaps.

I like the idea of a developmental quarterback in the second seat. But having an injury-prone starter and a rookie as that guy could be especially dangerous. If Mettenberger was a second year guy, I'd be more comfortable with it.

The Titans have gone from Matt Hasselbeck to Ryan Fitzpatrick to Whitehurst as the veteran backup in the past three seasons.

That's trending downward, which make's Seifert's thinking make more sense in Tennessee than it may have in the past.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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