Raymond Berry, the Hall of Fame wide receiver who coached the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl 27 years ago, knew he was in trouble.
As he and his staff prepared for the big game against the Chicago Bears and their 46 Defense, which was at its dominant best throughout the 1985 season and playoffs, Berry knew he needed more time. Like a year or two.
Super Bowl XX was the final game of his first full season as coach. It was his first full season running the offense he brought with him, an offense rooted in his relationship with quarterback Johnny Unitas, the godfather of much of modern offensive football.
In order to execute consistently against the likes of Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and so many other great players Berry knew his team needed a greater level of understanding and comfort with their scheme than one year afforded. Disappointing as it was, the 46-10 defeat he and his Patriots endured that day was not terribly surprising.
Berry, who moved to Murfreesboro several years ago in order to be close to grandchildren, told me that five years ago in a one-on-one chat. He explained that continuity is critical to offensive execution. And it requires time.
With that in mind, the idea that Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck entered the offseason on equal footing was a nice idea and made for some compelling discussion for a matter of months.
We all know now that it was an absolute fallacy.
With Monday's announcement that Locker is the starter for the regular season, it is clear that coaches were sure — all along — about what they wanted to do. And why.
In order to have any chance to build a championship caliber offense, the process has to start sooner rather than later. That process starts now.
The Titans, after all, drafted Locker last April when the NFL was in the midst of a lockout that lasted all the way to the start of training camp. They did not select him so they could vet him, so to speak. He was picked to be the franchise quarterback a decade or more.
Because of the lockout, coaches had roughly three months to dream and scheme in regard to him and his particular abilities. Presumably they did little else during that time because there was little else to do.
Hasselbeck only arrived in the flurry of activity that followed the end of the lockout and offered some much needed stability in turbulent times.
So the plans for Locker were shelved — temporarily, of course. The team stuck with Hasselbeck through a season in which the team exceeded many peoples’ expectations. There were brief looks at Locker against Atlanta and New Orleans, which only fueled the curiosity about what the kid might do if — and when — he was given the opportunity.
Now it’s time to get on with it.
The fact that neither Locker nor Hasselbeck did enough statistically to win the job in the first two preseason games is irrelevant.
It never was a competition to begin with. It was just up to Locker to show the types of things that led the team to draft him in the first place — the poise, the strong arm, the athleticism. In practices and in preseason contests, he did that.
Now he’ll have the chance to do it once the regular season starts.
Whether it is the right decision or not, only time will tell. It likely will be a short amount of time given how difficult the first six games of the schedule appear to be.
The important thing is that offense takes time. It doesn’t come together in a week or a month or even a season.
That time starts now.