And we're off.
With the announcement that Jake Locker will be the week one starter against the defending AFC champions, the New England Patriots, we have taken the first step into a brave new world. Our last go around set the team back a good five years and we can all only hope that this time things will be different. We've played with fire and been burned, so now we're back for more. Time to embrace it, the next two seasons will define professional football in Tennessee for probably another ten years.
I think it's high time that whoever is yet to embrace Jake Locker as the unquestioned leader of this team should go ahead and bite the bullet. Mike Munchak said it best:
By no means has this job been given to him, he's earned it.
Say coach speak. I dare you. It may sound like coach speak, but Munchak is a straight shooter, if he endorses Locker in the press-room, he endorses Locker behind closed doors. I was going to write about how this QB battle has seemed more like Hasselbeck conceding the job by sucking rather than Locker winning the job by being great which really worried me, but Munchak believes, so I believe. You really can't find anyone saying a negative thing about the guy. Not even the guy whose job he just took has anything but praise for him.
As hard as it was, Munch made his decision, and as hard as it was for me to hear that, I'm also excited for Jake. I'll help and support him any way I can, and I'll be happy to do it.
Brings a tear to the eye, don't it? For as awesome of a coming out party as this season is for Jake, this is also pretty much a perfect send off for a guy destined for the Hall Of Very Good. Hasselbeck was playing out of his mind for a few games last season before regressing to his true, 35 year old talent level, and still finished the season as the best quarterback to throw on the uniform in about eight years.
But more about our shiny new quarterback. This is an exciting and perhaps kind of confusing time to be a fan of this team, and #10 is the reason. As many of you know, Jake has something of a cult following in the Pacific northwest due to his time as supreme overlord at University of Washington. Being the smoothest operator in the state of Washington is probably a little something like being the world's tallest midget, but I digress, those guys love him and that's awesome. They don't love Jake because his teams won many games (though the win over USC was pretty awesome), they love him because he was a warrior his entire time at the university. Jake scratched, fought, and clawed for every single yard he earned in a Huskies uniform. Word on the street is that he didn't actually have a scholarship, he just paid his tuition in blood, sweat, and tears. From the broken rib suffered in his senior season to his "never say die" attitude when running with the ball, Jake played with a balls-to-the-wall style that reminds a lot of us of Steve McNair.
Steve McNair will never be replicated. I really don't care who comes in, Jesus himself could suit up for us and it still wouldn't be the same as watching 9 do his thing. Fortunately for Jake, he's cut in the same mold as one of the most beloved players in franchise history. I just went there, I made a cross-racial comparison, 'sup haters? This is why I have such faith. Fact: McNair was not an accurate passer in college. Even as a pro, he struggled early and often with hitting his targets, but if you got on him about that you were just being nitpicky, come on man, nobody likes the nitpicker. McNair wasn't conventional, he was a playmaking quarterback. I think Jake Locker has the ability to be a better runner and passer and just as good of a leader, I truly, truly do. This may be sacrilege to some, but to those that may draw offense to this, I'll cap off this paragraph by saying that no one will ever take McNair's spot as my favorite player of all time. Brian Dawkins tried, he really did, but in the end, McNair will always be there in the number one spot.
Finally, I'd like to leave you with a thought. Jake Locker may fail. He may not be the savior we thought he was as his accuracy issues are too much to overcome or one bad decision not to slide leads to a serious injury that he just can't quite make it back from, but I'll say this: Jake Locker will not fail in the same way that the last #10 failed. Jake Locker will be different, and because of this, Jake Locker will lead us to the promised land.