When the Tennessee Titans drafted Jake Locker eighth in the 2011 NFL Draft, he was expected to lead this once-proud franchise from the AFC South Division basement and eventually lead the Titans back to the playoffs.
Three losing seasons later, the faith of Titans personnel and fans have began to waver.
All of the seven players selected before Locker have made Pro Bowls and are producing at an All-Pro level. Two quarterbacks selected many rounds after Locker, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, have already led their perspective franchises to the playoffs after years of disappointment and coming up short.
The success of the players drafted before Locker combined with play of quarterbacks drafted several rounds after him means that Locker is all out of excuses.
Titans general manager Ruston Webster has done a masterful job in surrounding Locker with playmakers such as wide receivers Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright and tight end Jared Cook. Locker also has had the luxury of a 2,000 yard rusher in All-Pro running back Chris Johnson to help him develop into the franchise quarterback expected of a player selected with the eighth pick in the NFL Draft.
Although the Titans are unlikely to use their first and second-round selections on a quarterback, the time may have come to prepare a back-up plan, and there are a number of talented prospects who may be able to thrive where Locker has failed.
There was a time when young players were given years develop, but talented quarterbacks like Washington Redskins‘ Robert Griffin III, Indianapolis Colts‘ Andrew Luck and Seattle Seahawks‘ Russell Wilson have proven that the years of waiting for quarterbacks to develop are no more.
The time has come for Locker to produce, and his career as a NFL starting quarterback in the Music City hangs in the balance.