If there were any lingering doubts about whether the Tennessee Titans intended to move away from Vince Young, they were erased Thursday night, when the team selected Jake Locker in the first round.
To some, the decision to take the University of Washington quarterback was a bit of a reach, but it’s obviously an attempt to move beyond an arm’s length from Young, who at times dazzled but more often was a source of consternation within the organization.
Yes, there are questions about Locker just as there were with Young five years ago. In fact, there are some of the very same questions. Some wonder whether he has the accuracy to succeed
in the NFL. There is the issue of how best to take advantage of Locker’s obvious athleticism.
No one — absolutely no one — questions Locker’s willingness and ability to work hard.
“I think we have a new culture here at the quarterback spot, and a guy that is going to be the first one in here and the last one out,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. “[He’s] a guy that is getting married in July and will spend his time on Cape Cod this summer with me, so I am looking forward to that.”
In other words, the Titans can’t say for sure whether they got the guy who can turn around this franchise and make it a consistent winner, but they tried — because they know he’s going to try.
Locker’s not afraid of work for work’s sake. Consider the fact that many thought he would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft had he decided to come out. Instead, he returned to Washington and led that team — not a particularly good team, mind you — to a winning record and a victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Contrast that with Young, who initially announced he intended to return to the University of Texas for his senior season, but once he got a sense of his potential draft position in the wake of his BCS title game performance, he jumped. Young couldn’t wait to cash his checks. He couldn’t wait to become a star on the professional level. So he cut the corner.
Locker was the only one of the top picks not at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. He was at home with his family in Ferndale, Wash., sampling dishes from the caterer for that June wedding. That’s right, he was working to make sure that his wedding would be just right even at the moment his professional career began.
“I’ve had a great supporting cast my whole life,” Locker said. “Family and friends have given me a good example of what leadership is, and I’ve just tried to do my best to follow suit in that. Learn from what they have taught me and apply it to my life in every situation on and off the field.
“I look forward to bringing that to the Titans.”
The Titans gladly now need not look back. A couple months ago they got a new coach. Last week they got a new quarterback.
It’s entirely possible that they overcompensated and placed too much value on the work-ethic thing. After all, other quarterbacks were available — some were bigger, some probably were more talented.
If this doesn’t work out, though, it won’t be because the kid didn’t try. The Titans went with the guy who is going to give it his best shot even if it’s possible he was not the best player. That is definitely a change.
David Boclair is sports editor of The City Paper. Follow him on Twitter @BoclairSports, or email him