Having played — and won — on Thursday night the Tennessee Titans have plenty of time to enjoy the feeling of victory.
They ought to use some of that extra time to decide just how much they like it — and how often they’d like to try and bask in it over the remaining 11 games.
Call it a quarterback controversy. A quarterback question? A quarterback quandary?
Whatever it is, the issue of who ought to be the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback for the remainder of this season is unavoidable in the wake of the 26-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The party line all throughout the offseason and training camp was that coach Mike Munchak and his staff would go with the guy who would give them the best chance to win.
The reality was that they wanted to see enough from Jake Locker to make him the choice — and they did. Locker is younger than Matt Hasselbeck. He has a stronger arm, quicker feet and a youthful enthusiasm that can be contagious.
It was a decision that made sense — and still makes sense — on a lot of levels. The only area in which the 2011 first-round draft choice was seriously lacking was in experience, and the only way he was going to become an experienced quarterback actually was to play. So why not embark on that process sooner rather than later?
It is clear now, though, that the trade-off for getting him that experience is a diminished opportunity to win in the short term.
Hasselbeck gives the Titans the best chance to win games based on one simple thing: his performance in the two-minute offense. The Steelers game proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Not only did the veteran march the Titans 33 yards in 44 seconds to set up Rob Bironas’ game-winning field goal on the final play of Thursday’s contest, he drove the team 59 yards in 10 plays over the final 91 seconds of the first half, a possession capped by a 47-yard Bironas field goal. He was a combined 6-for-11 for 83 yards — with two significant third-down conversions — on those drives.
Remember, Tennessee ultimately won by three points.
None of this is to suggest that Locker is at fault for the 1-4 start (actually 1-3; he did not play Week 5 at Minnesota either). He actually was one of the more productive players at a time when there was little about which the team could feel good.
The early struggles simply make clear that this team has a razor-thin margin for error — that every point and every second counts.
In a way, it is no different than it was in 2011 when Tennessee was a pleasant surprise at 9-7, with nine of their games decided by a touchdown or less. Hasselbeck started the whole way, led three come-from-behind or game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and seven times put points on the scoreboard (four touchdowns, three field goals) in the final minute of the first half.
In the three games Locker even made it to halftime, he produced in the two-minute drill one time. He led the team to a field goal at the end of the first half in the victory over Detroit.
Munchak has been clear that he plans to put Hasselbeck back on the bench once Locker’s left shoulder allows. He might want to reconsider, unless he’s willing to deal with a bunch more defeats this fall.
There will be plenty of time for Locker to develop into the quarterback everyone associated with the Titans expects he will be. If they want to have the best chance to win more games this year they need to go with the guy who can get it done when time is running out.