Go ahead and blame Jake Locker for some of the Tennessee Titans’ struggles on offense in last Sunday’s loss to Houston or at any other point this season.
Chances are he beat you to it.
“He’s the first guy on the sideline telling you what he did wrong,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He knows what he should have done. He’s not fighting that.
“I’ve been around some quarterbacks that aren’t as willing to take the blame for things when it’s going in a different direction.”
Things clearly have not gone the way the Titans wanted of late.
They have lost four of their last five as they head into Sunday’s game with the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Field (noon, CBS). That stretch has eliminated the possibility of a winning season and effectively wiped out any remaining playoff hopes that existed.
Against the Texans, Locker completed just 46.7 percent of his career-high 45 passes and was involved in five of his team’s six turnovers (two fumbles, three interceptions). The fact that he occasionally held the ball too long contributed to him being sacked a career-high six times.
When he arrived at the team’s practice facility Monday morning he sought out offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains with one pressing question: “How bad was it?”
It was not the first time the 2011 first-round draft pick arrived wondering that very thing.
“I’m always a little bit hesitant to give it to him then before he watches the tape because I know how hard he is going to be on himself,” Loggains said. “He’s his biggest critic. … When we watch the tape on Monday, and we watch with the receivers and the skill guys … so we’re all on the same page. Jake’s the first one to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I have to play better guys. I missed that read. That’s my bad.’
“… It holds everybody to a different level of accountability when he is the up-front guy who stands up in front of the group and says, ‘That’s me. I missed the first third down. I missed my read.’ I think it helps everyone.”
He does the same thing when he gets in front of the media. He is quick during postgame interviews to own up to and explain his errors rather than offer excuses.
That attitude is in stark contrast to Vince Young, the last quarterback Tennessee drafted in the first round (third overall, 2006). Young — publicly at least — fiercely protected his reputation as a playmaker and rarely acknowledged his mistakes or accepted blame for defeats.
“[Locker] is the leader of the team,” Loggains said. “That’s who everyone looks at … and it helps him win his teammates over.”
Fortunately for Young, he won more than he lost. He was 30-17 as a starter, which meant he was not burdened with long losing streaks. Yet it was his negative reaction to being pulled in a 2010 game against Washington that ended his tenure with the franchise.
Locker is just 2-5 as a starter and in the six games he has played the bulk of the time the offense has scored five touchdowns in 14 red zone opportunities, including one in four the last two weeks.
Whatever his struggles, the Titans have yet to lose more than two in a row with him under center, and they’d like to keep it that way when they face the Colts.
“I don’t know if it’s so much a quarterback thing as a belief in everyday life,” Locker said. “It’s just taking accountability for the things you’ve done wrong.”
Tennessee currently ranks 23rd in both scoring offense and total offense.
No doubt there is plenty of blame to go around. Locker, for one, is ready to accept what he has coming in that regard.
“That’s just kind of how I’ve been taught since I was a kid,” Locker said. “If you’re going to make a mistake don’t point the finger at somebody else, look at yourself before you look at somebody else. Correct what you can. Control what you can.
“Hopefully that is something other people believe in as well.”