What does the hiring Ken Whisenhunt by the Tennessee Titans mean for Jake Locker?
That is one of the first and most important questions the new head coach will have to answer.
In the past, Whisenhunt has been somewhat of a quarterback whisperer if you will. He helped to develop Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, resurrected the career of Kurt Warner in Arizona and most recently revived a sagging Philip Rivers' career in San Diego as the Chargers offensive coordinator.
Locker, the Titans' first-round pick in 2011, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, as the Titans are expected to decline a $13 million option for 2015 in May. That means that the quarterback, who has shown flashes when healthy, has exactly 16 games to show the Titans and Whisenhunt that he is the quarterback of the present and the future. Locker missed nine games this season with injuries and with is still rehabbing from foot surgery. He has missed 14 of a possible 32 games due to injuries since becoming the Titans' starter in 2012.
Whisenhunt tread lightly on the issue at his introductory press conference Monday in Nashville.
“I just got finished with our (Chargers) season two days ago. It has been kind of a whirlwind. You know there is a lot of time that goes into that, especially when you get into the playoffs. I really haven’t had a chance to study that,” Whisenhunt said. “That is going to be a big thing over the next weeks and months, as far as evaluating our players and how they fit in. The one thing I will say is that I liked Jake coming out. One of the things I think we have done a good job of in the places that I have been is putting them in positions to be successful and that is what our goal is to be here.”
Locker told TitanInsider in a text message that he is excited about teaming up with Whisenhunt.
“(I'm) excited about the hire and looking forward to working with Coach Whisenhunt. He has always had very successful offenses and I look forward to learning from him,” Locker said.
In short order, Whisenhunt said he will evaluate Locker and everyone else for that matter as he tries to assemble with general manager Ruston Webster a roster that can compete.
“I really trust Ruston and his assessment of our team and his staff. I think that is a part of the process, plus you can look at some of things he had on tape,” Whisenhunt said. “Hopefully I will get a chance to sit with him and talk with him because that is a big piece of the puzzle too. Everything I have heard about Jake as far as the student of the game and how he works has been positive. With the successful guys that I have been around that is a big piece of it, so that will help.”
Webster said that he believes Locker will have a good chance to remain the starter, saying, “I think that’s something we’ll continue to discuss and go through, but I would anticipate Jake having a good chance to do that.”
However, the GM did say later on 102.5 The Game in Nashville that the ultimate decision on Locker's future as a quarterback would lie with Whisenhunt. Webster said that Whisenhunt's initial questions were mostly about the quarterback's attitude and work habits, which are some of Locker's strongest qualities.
But Webster told the station, "From a playing standpoint, that's something that Ken will have to get in here and assess for himself."