All the thought, all the time and energy — not to mention the money — that the Tennessee Titans put into acquiring a veteran quarterback, and now this.
Mike Reinfeldt and others went to great lengths during the offseason to make us believe that the need to play a rookie quarterback is akin to the sky falling in. It’s a plague of locusts. It’s an all-enveloping hell fire.
Watching Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton — he’s a rookie, by the way — tear through the Titans’ defense on Sunday afternoon suddenly makes all of that seem a bit of an exaggeration.
The Bengals, now 6-2 and with a five-game winning streak, actually look happy and productive and downright promising. They might even be a playoff team. The Titans sure don’t look like one.
In the moments following their 24-17 defeat Tennessee’s players and coaches spent a lot of time talking about all the things they did not do during the course of four quarters. No one mentioned the fact that the franchise’s decision-makers could not convince themselves during the roughly four months of the NFL lockout that their rookie, Jake Locker, was worthy of running the offense.
Let’s pause for a moment to be clear about this: Matt Hasselbeck is not the problem. He is a strong presence and a capable hand at a position where the Titans desperately needed one. His play through the first eight games of this season has been a drastic improvement over what the Titans got from that spot the previous five years.
All of the sudden, though, it is tough not to wonder if Locker could not have done much of the same and if the team could have/should have had thrown some free agent riches at another position — wide receiver, for example.
Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Sidney Rice, Steve Breaston all were available, among others. Any one of them likely would have been a spectacular complement to Kenny Britt when Britt was still healthy and a suitable alternative in the wake of Britt’s season-ending knee injury.
Left with pedestrian group of wideouts, Hasselbeck’s production has dipped noticeably. He averaged at least 7.7 yards per attempt in the three games Britt played. Without him, there was one good game (at Cleveland) but since he has averaged no better than 6.6 yards per attempt. In three contests with Britt the Titans had 41 first downs passing (14 by Britt, himself) and in the five games without him they managed just 49.
Now here comes Dalton and he completes 22 of 39 passes for 217 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Half of his completions go for first downs, including one in the fourth quarter when it was third-and-18 and another that went for 15 yards and a touchdown on third-and-5.
He showed a strong arm and made good decisions, the latter evidenced by the fact that he scrambled three times and was sacked just once. He changed plays at the line of scrimmage. Even when his team trailed by 10 points he was composed and confident.
It was everything that seemed so unthinkable when the Titans talked about their need for Hasselbeck or someone like him.
Keep in mind too that Tennessee chose Locker over Dalton. Both were available with the eighth overall pick, but the feeling was that Locker offered more promise.
Just imagine if they’re right about that. Of course, that’s all anyone can do at this point.
We’ll never know what might have been if Reinfeldt and Mike Munchak and the rest trusted the quarterback they drafted the way the Bengals have. It’s something to think about, though.