AFC South's QB shuffle makes Titans' situation look stable

Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 6:52pm

Suddenly the Tennessee Titans’ situation at quarterback does not look so bad.

At least Matt Hasselbeck has been the starter since the early days of training camp, when he and other free agents finally were allowed to practice with the team. Plus, he appeared in all four preseason games.

Relative to half the teams in the AFC South, that is a veritable wealth of experience within the scheme.

“He’s ready,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer declared Wednesday. “He has done a good job and he has a handle on the offense. I expect him to play well.”

Thursday, Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning underwent a third neck surgery, one that is expected to keep him out a minimum of two months. Former Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, who signed two weeks ago following a brief retirement, was tabbed as the first man in 14 years — and other than Manning — to start at that spot for the Colts.

That news came two days after Jacksonville waived veteran David Garrard, its starter since 2007, and named journeyman Luke McCown the guy for Sunday’s season-opener against Tennessee (noon, CBS).

“Each day comes and you learn something different, learn something new,” Collins said Wednesday. “I really do feel like I’ve come a long way in a short period of time.

“Now that we’re in the game-planning, things are a little bit more focused and more centralized on what we’re trying to accomplish. So yeah, my comfort level is still pretty high.”

Only Houston's Matt Shaub, now in his fifth season as the Texans’ starter, won’t necessarily be learning on the job with the start of the regular season, which includes a pair of Week 1, AFC South matchups. In addition to the Titans-Jaguars game, the Colts and Texans will meet in Houston.

Shaub attempted 45 passes during the preseason, which was only three more than Hasselbeck did. By comparison, Collins and McCown combined for just 28 attempts (18 by McCown and 10 by Collins).

“My hope is just like there are on teams all across the league where there are new people in new places … that we can be winning games as we’re learning, as we’re getting better and as we’re working through things,” Hasselbeck said.

Hasselbeck, at least, brings with him to the Titans’ offense 10 years of experience as a starter with Seattle, just as Collins has an extensive background on which he can rely.

McCown, on the other hand, will make just his fifth start in an eight-year career when he takes the field against the Titans.

“I think you go into it every year thinking [the division] is wide open,” Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said. “We know the teams well, they know us well and I think every year, even though other people may think it’s wide-open, we look at it that way every year that there is no reason that we can’t win it.

“… We will worry about the other teams later, we don’t play them for a while. We got Jacksonville first and we know that we’ve got to win this one because division games mean so much.”

For the Titans, in this case, it is a division game in which they appear to have a significant advantage at the most important position on any football team.

“Obviously you want to win the first game — everyone does,” Hasselbeck said. “But actually, in Seattle, the year we went to the Super Bowl we lost the home opener to Jacksonville then won 12 or 13 games after that.

“It’s a great way to start, it’s a division game but it won’t make or break the whole season.”

He speaks from experience, and not all of Tennessee’s division rivals have a quarterback who can do the same.