NFL analyst Trent Dilfer of ESPN says the Tennessee Titans rushed Jake Locker into the lineup as the starting quarterback last year, and that is the primary reason for his inconsistency.
Dilfer, speaking on 102.5 The Game in Nashville, said the Titans should have hung onto Matt Hasselbeck and let Locker take up to three years to really learn and refine the craf of being an NFL quarterback.
Dilfer said he sees some of his own career and inconsistencies when he watches Locker play.
“It’s development. It’s the little things, the craft of the position, the mechanics, the nuances, the eye placement, the rhythm, the tempo. It’s all these things that you can’t really show somebody that hasn’t held the ball in their hands and done it,” Dilfer said. “The greats make it look so easy because they pay such close attention to the little things. I’m passionate about it because I stunk at it - because I was Jake Locker. I could make any throw. I could do the splash play, I had all the ability in the world, and yet I would miss a gimme.
The topic came up when Dilfer made his weekly appearance on SportsNight with George Plaster, regarding Locker being able to thread the needle on a TD throw to Kendall Wright, but also missing a wide open Kenny Britt on a short slant route that probably would have sealed a win Sunday in Houston.
Dilfer said Locker needed time to perfect his craft as a quarterback before being handed the reins.
“It wasn’t until late in my career when my body broke down that I really started embracing those types of things that allow for consistency, and watching and getting frustrated that guys who were less talented than me were more successful than me that I really got it,” Dilfer said T”he light went off, and I had coaches to help me understand it. That is the training. That is the lonely work, the stuff that nobody sees, that nobody cares about, that nobody wants to hear about that allows you to make the easy play 100 out of 100 times, that allows you to make the complex play look even easier.
“That’s why I thought Jake should have sat longer. I was very adamant when I did the Monday night game there a couple of years ago. Everyone thought it was because Matthew Hasselbeck and I were buddies. I thought Matthew should have been the starter for three years. Jake needed two-and-a-half or three years to go to the lab and train. His college coaches told me that – Doug Nussmeier, Steve Sarkisian.”
Dilfer said Locker has all the tools and talent to be a top-flight NFL quarterback, but being thrown into the fire last year as the starter has probably hindered his preparation and growth.
“Everybody knew he had a ton of talent. He’s a great kid, he’s tough, he’s a leader. He’s everything you want, but he hasn’t yet had enough of the craftsmanship work. He hasn’t gone to the lab and done the lonely work. Not that he hasn’t wanted to, but he’s always been thrown into the fire and asked to play because of his talent,” Dilfer said. “That’s why I think the best thing the Titans could have done was to have built around Matthew. He was playing at a high level if he could stay healthy you would have won some games, and Jake could have been there getting the lonely work done, so that when he was asked to play, there was more craft to his game that he could embrace the nuances a little bit more.
“I love Jake. He’s one of my favorite people. I think he’s a great talent and a great kid. I get so frustrated watching him play, because he can make the very difficult look very easy, but he can make the very easy look next to impossible.”
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