As the quarterback battles wind down in the next two weeks or so, we have had two resolved today alone. Two young, semi-inexperienced head coaches have made bold decisions in announcing his team's opening day starter with two games still to play this preseason.
Down south in Miami, Joe Philbin–former Green Bay offensive coordinator from 2007-11–makes the decision to start No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill as the starter for Miami's September 9 matchup with the Houston Texans and its stingy defense. Philbin is entering his first season as an NFL head coach.
In Tennessee, Mike Munchak, in his second season at the helm of the Titans after going 9-7 last season, names second-year quarterback Jake Locker as Tennessee's starter for a Week 1 matchup with Bill Belichick's New England Patriots.
Tannehill beats out veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard to become the first Dolphins quarterback to ever start his very first game as a rookie. Moore, 6-6 in 12 starts for Miami last season, has struggled early on this preseason, completing just 44% of his 27 pass attempts for 136 yards and an interception.
With Garrard out for at least the first month of the season due to injury, Tannehill has out-shined the remainder of Miami's QB depth chart, completing 25 of his 44 pass attempts for 267 yards and a TD. Despite missing part of camp due to his holdout, Tannehill has jumped right in and impressed Miami's coaching staff early on.
The Tannehill decision, in my opinion, doesn't really come as much of a surprise. The decision in Tennessee, however, has come as a bit of a surprise to me.
Locker impressed in his rookie campaign last season, when he saw playing time of course. But it was Hasselbeck who did the heavy lifting. Locker appeared in five games, throwing for 542 yards and 4 TDs with zero interceptions. But it was the 36-year old veteran Hasselbeck that threw for 3,571 yards and 18 TDs in 16 starts, falling just short of the playoffs.
This preseason Locker has been a bit inconsistent, turning in an impressive debut in a 27-17 losing effort to Seattle the first week but then merely passing for 4/11 with 21 yards and an INT this past weekend. Hasselbeck has been his normal self in both games (other than two INTs vs. SEA).
The Munchak decision is clearly a look into the future, as Hasselbeck only has so much left in his tank. Matt will serve as a mentor for the 24-year old signal caller, and be available should Locker suffer an injury or underperform. Rusty Smith will serve as a solid third-stringer to Locker and Hasselbeck in Tennessee.
Tannehill will join Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden as the fourth rookie quarterback to start for his respective team for the regular season opener. All of the aforementioned, minus Cleveland's Weeden, of course, were top 10 picks this past year.
What's next for NFL in terms of quarterback battles? Will it be Matt Flynn finally beating out Russell Wilson for the Seattle starting job? John Skelton de-throning the expensive Kevin Kolb in the desert? Dare I say it, but will the quarterbacks in New York finally start performing? Still a lot of questions to be answered before we get underway in September.
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