When is the right time for this franchise to take that next step forward? The Tennessee Titans have many questions that must be addressed before the 2012-13 NFL season begins. One of those concerns is whether Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker will be under center when the Titans host the New England Patriots in their regular-season opener on September 9.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak has previously indicated that the schedule could play a role in this competition. This could give Hasselbeck an advantage because of his experience and quality play before he was injured for most of the second half of 2011. The Titans might not want to play Locker until the schedule eases up in Week 7.
Here are the Titans' first six games in 2012.
Titans 2012-13 NFL Schedule: Week 1 Through Week 6
Week 1: New England Patriots
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
Week 3: Detroit Lions
Week 4: at Houston Texans
Week 5: at Minnesota Vikings
Week 6: Pittsburgh Steelers (Thursday Night)
The Big Six?
The Vikings game appears like a cakewalk because of Minnesota's 3-13 record in 2011. Adrian Peterson is also coming off a severe knee injury from when he tore his ACL in December. The Vikings aren't expected to be a playoff contender in a NFC North division with the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
The Vikings are still tough at home. The Metrodome is one of the loudest environments in sports.In 2011, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears had both won home games against the Vikings by a combined score of 84-17. They barely won their games in the Metrodome. Former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren regularly complained about the decibel levels. Such a deafening experience could be overwhelming to an inexperienced quarterback.
The Other Five Games
Four of the other five teams were playoff teams in 2011. The San Diego Chargers have won eight consecutive games against the Titans dating back to 1992. This includes a Wild Card playoff game in 2007 and the 42-17 Christmas Day game in 2009.
Inexperience Isn't A Death Sentence
Cam Newton was recognized as the Pepsi Rookie of the Year and the Associated Press (AP) Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. The Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed a quick turnaround with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals were widely believed to finish that season in the AFC North cellar. Instead, they earned the final wild-card berth inside a division that had three playoff teams.
Both of these rookie quarterbacks were opening-day starters. The Panthers started Newton despite an opening schedule with a Week 1 road game and a Week 2 home game against the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. The Bengals never hesitated to play Dalton despite divisional foes with well-respected defenses such as the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Forget The Schedule
The schedule shouldn't factor into this competition. The 24-year-old Locker can handle the bumps and bruises that come with his progression as a starting quarterback. They don't need to dumb-it-down by only playing him against inferior competition. Veteran loyalty has no role in this decision.
No strings attached: let the best man win. However, Hasselbeck should have a short leash if he wins the job. Anything worse than a 3-3 record would be unacceptable. The Titans do need to think about their future.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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