The Titans were a somewhat different, somewhat better team in 2013 than they were in 2012. One thing, however, did not change: starting quarterback Jake Locker did not play a full season, even close to it. When I named him the Titans' biggest disappointment last year, he played the majority of snaps in 10 games, for just under 60% playing time. That was annoying and disappointing, especially because so much of his playing time (52% of his snaps) came in the final five games when the Titans were down at least three starting offensive linemen and could barely accomplish anything.
2013 was even worse. He went from playing 60% of the snaps to under 37%. Instead of taking the majority of the snaps in 10 games, it was six. He missed significant time with a mid-season injury, returned, then got hurt again. When I appeared on Paul Kuharsky's Periodic Podcast in mid-October to talk Titans, I noted Locker needed to return and stay healthy, both so the Titans could learn more about his true level of ability and because he needed to show he could stay on the field and be a contributor. He did not.
This post is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of Locker's 2013 season, not by a longshot. I will be writing more about that as we go through the offseason. I am sure the new coach will be commenting on Locker and whether he will be counted on as the Titans' starting quarterback in 2014-I have noted I believe Ruston Webster left Locker's status open enough the Titans' future at quarterback is still up on the air. But that the Titans' future at quarterback is still up in the air is most proximately a direct result of Locker's inability to stay on the field.
We've read, and I've heard, players talk about Locker's leadership ability. But we've also read that some players late in the season were questioning Locker as a leader. That Locker skipped the final open locker room of the year does not particularly concern me in terms of Locker's leadership ability. But the best, maybe the only way to be a leader in the NFL is to be a leader by your presence. It's damn hard to be a leader when you're not on the field and not practicing with your teammates. Notwithstanding Kevin Walter's presence in wide receiver meeting rooms this season, injured players are viewed as not really a part of a team. That's understandable, because in important ways they're not. They're not out their practicing, sacrificing, working hard in the same way players on the field area. To be part of the team, you must do the same thing your teammates are doing, especially putting your well-being on the line on Sundays.
I should note I am not putting Locker here because the Titans went 3-1 in the games before he got hurt, then the team went 4-8 the rest of the way, including 1-7 in the games Fitzpatrick played the majority of before the two late close wins against two of the three worst teams in the league. As I said during the season, the Titans that went 3-1 were not significantly better or different than the team that went 4-8-a Life on the Margins team that wins when they get enough breaks and loses when they don't or they face a very good team. Really, though, it's that we got six-plus games of Jake Locker to evaluate, including a couple where they tried to hide him, and nine-plus of Ryan Fitzpatrick, a known backup, that leads me to declare Jake Locker the Titans' most disappointing player in 2013. Honorable mentions go to Chance Warmack (and, yes, I did just name him Titans rookie of the year) and Kenny Britt.