Days before the final game of the 2011 regular season, Matt Hasselbeck was not particularly concerned with his status as the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback.
“I know they set out a plan in their minds when they started the year,” he said at the time. “It’s probably gone pretty close to how they imagined it, is my guess.”
Not that long ago, it seemed unimaginable that Peyton Manning, the NFL’s only four-time most valuable player, would play for any team other than the Indianapolis Colts, let alone the Titans.
Monday, days after the Colts released him, multiple reports from national media outlets said that Manning would meet with Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and other staff members, most likely on Wednesday. That development came a day after owner K.S. “Bud” Adams publicly stated his desire to add Manning.
It represented a sharp philosophical change for the organization and threatened to change the course of its free agent activities when the signing period begins Tuesday afternoon.
General manager Ruston Webster said numerous times in previous weeks that the Titans were happy with their quarterback depth and felt other areas of the roster needed attention in free agency and the draft. Later reports Monday indicated that the Titans planned to pursue free agent defensive end Mario Williams, the first overall pick by Houston in the 2006 draft, but instead were now focused on Manning.
There was no official word from Webster on Wednesday. A team spokesperson said, “The owner speaks for the team.”
The Titans will be the fourth team to meet with Manning, who visited both Denver and Arizona over the weekend and then met with Miami representatives, reportedly in Indianapolis, on Monday.
Their plan was for Hasselbeck and Locker to battle for the job as a starter throughout the offseason. Hasselbeck started every game last season, and Locker played significantly in three games when Hasselbeck had injury issues.
If the Titans can add Manning, that obviously will not be the case. Hasselbeck almost certainly will be released or traded and it will become Manning’s responsibility to help develop Locker.
Munchak was instrumental in Hasselbeck’s decision to sign with Tennessee last summer. The head coach spelled out the organization’s plans in a manner that put Hasselbeck at ease.
Now he will make his case to Manning in what could be a seminal moment of his tenure, however long it lasts.
It is likely no one planned for this to be the case.
• Staff addition: The Titans confirmed Monday that Dennis Polian has been hired as an assistant to Munchak. Polian, the son of former Indianapolis president Bill Polian, was the Colts director of football administration before he was fired last week.
According to a Yahoo.com report, Polian was fired, at least in part, because of his interest in a position with the Titans.
The position as Munchak’s assistant is largely administrative.