Matt Hasselbeck does not need to put his ear to the ground, so to speak.
There is no reason for him to listen to sports talk radio or to comb the Internet. It makes no difference if he never logs on to Twitter or Facebook.
As he nears the end of his 13th NFL season, the Tennessee Titans quarterback knows what is being said. He does not have to wonder or guess.
Fans in ever-increasing numbers want Jake Locker to be the starting quarterback — sooner rather than later. Based on his play over the last five weeks, in fact, many want to see the 2011 first-round draft pick under center Saturday, when the Titans play their final home game of the season, against Jacksonville (noon, CBS).
“I think that the vibe outside the building is one that gets going like a snowball,” Hasselbeck said Wednesday. “I’ve been on every side of it. That’s just how it is. I’ve done my best in all roles I’ve played to be numb to that or be oblivious to that and to just stay focused where I need to be focused.”
In the last five weeks, Hasselbeck has completed 61.1 percent of his passes and has thrown one touchdown with five interceptions. His average yards per game over that span is 138.2.
He failed to finish three of those five games, however. Locker replaced him each time and while he completed just 51.6 percent of his attempts in those games, he averaged 176.7 passing yards and threw four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Coach Mike Munchak has maintained that as long as Hasselbeck is healthy he will remain the starter.
“[Hasselbeck] understood when he came here that — at some point — people were going to talk about the first-round quarterback,” Munchak said. “I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s a great thing that people realize we have two good quarterbacks, and we’re in great shape for a long time here at the quarterback position.”
Locker is the only one of the first five quarterbacks drafted back in April who has yet to start a game.
Jacksonville has gone with Blaine Gabbert, taken two picks after Locker, since Week 3. Tennessee’s final opponent, Houston, has started fifth-round draft pick T.J. Yates each of the last three weeks after injuries to two veterans.
“Matt deserves what he has,” Munchak said. “If we didn’t think we could win with Matt then we would make a change. I’m loyal, in a way, to a guy that has earned the right to start because we feel he’s the best guy for the position.”
At 7-7, the Titans currently are a game behind the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals and tied with two others in the race for the AFC’s final wild card spot. The Bengals have started a rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, all season as the Jets did two years ago when they made the playoffs when Mark Sanchez was a rookie.
In order for Tennessee to make the postseason it must win its two remaining contests and get the necessary results in several games it does not play.
According to Hasselbeck, who made the playoffs last season with Seattle despite the fact that Seahawks lost three of their final four and finished 7-9, trying to sort out all the possible scenarios is as productive as listening to the cries for someone else to do his job.
“As a player, you should be fully motivated so there’s no need for extra motivation,” he said. “All that matters is you take care of business yourself or your team takes care of business. I think that’s where our focus needs to be and any attention we give outside of that is just a waste of our time and a distraction.
“I think it’s one of those things where you focus on trying to play well. At any moment that could change. … When you start getting outside, distractions like that stuff just start getting out of control.”