Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak has announced that Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker will compete for the starting quarterback job in 2012.
Fine. Quarterback competitions have been raging on NFL practice fields since flapper girls were dancing the Jitterbug and Charleston.
But let’s tell it like it is. The reason coaches place two quarterbacks in a competition is that they are not content enough with either to anoint him the starter.
The practice also elicits arguably the most annoying throwaway line in sports: “Competition brings out the best in everyone.”
Hogwash. Some players thrive in a battle for playing time and others wilt. Some who might be better suited for the job end up sitting on the bench because they simply did not respond well to such competition. Perhaps it is a psychological blow for them to fear that the coaches are not enamored enough with their talent to give them the starting position without having to fight for it. That does not mean they will not rise to the occasion once the guys in different colored uniforms show up.
This is not to say that quarterback competitions are not sometimes justified. The one in Tennessee certainly is. Hasselbeck will be 37-years-old early in the regular season. He is coming off a solid comeback year in which he completed nearly 62 percent of his passes for 3,571 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Hasselbeck slipped a bit in the second half, but one must consider that top receiver Kenny Britt was lost to injury and former stud featured back Chris Johnson suffered through a miserable slump. It is quite possible that the 2011 season represented one last hurrah for Hasselbeck, a last dying gasp of breath before age, wear and tear finally end his career. But he can certainly lay legitimate claim to deserving the starting job.
So can Locker, who might at least assert that he deserves a shot after being selected with the eighth overall pick last April. He flashed some of the talent that led the Titans to draft him so high. He tossed four touchdown passes and no interceptions in limited duty.
Sometimes quarterback competitions are all but unavoidable. Munchak is certainly warranted in staging one with the Titans. But he must be careful to not make his decision strictly on the results of that competition, especially if it is close. The best candidate just might not be the one who wins it.