Is It Time To Stop Apologizing For Jake Locker?
LACK OF TALENT
The first QB that comes to mind when discussing a player who succeeded with minimal talent around him is Drew Brees.
When Brees was at Purdue, he led the Boilermakers to multiple eight-plus win seasons and a Rose Bowl birth, not to mention his shattering of school records, with only two relevant NFL players sharing a roster with him over four years. Of the Boilermakers who played with Brees that went on to the NFL only Roosevelt Colvin and Matt Light have made any sort of impact at the next level.
Locker himself has played with three players, albeit all defensive, who are likely to contribute something at the next level (Donald Butler, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Mason Foster). So how can we keep apologizing for Locker based on talent around him, when quarterbacks have succeeded with the same or less?
If Locker is as gifted as we are made to believe, and a potential franchise player, shouldn’t he lift up his teammates and carry them to new heights as Brees did? Yes, Washington beat Nebraska this year, but Locker was 5-16 for 56 yards, while also totaling 83 on the ground. It’s hardly a performance that could carry a team. That game was won by their defense, limiting Nebraska to seven points.
UNMATCHED SKILL SET
Another defense that is always made for Locker is that nobody else has had his combination of arm strength and athletic ability, so his talented tools outweigh his lack of collegiate success.
However, in the same draft class Locker is matched up against a QB with equal arm strength and just as much mobility in Cam Newton. However Newton, in his one collegiate season, reached heights that Locker never has and showed accuracy that Locker never displayed. People just refuse to make the comparison because of all the off-field concerns for Newton. But if you look at it from a strictly talent standpoint, the comparison is intriguing.
Yes, the talent around Newton was unquestionably better and yes, they run completely different systems, but if we look at just their skill sets, how can we have so many people declare that Newton is just an athlete and not an NFL QB, while simultaneously making the case for Locker as a franchise signal caller?
Locker has more experience, but does not have better results.
He has a strong arm, but so does Newton. He has impressive agility, but so does Newton. He has a great NFL body, but Newton is bigger and perhaps even stronger. And Newton has proved to be more accurate on both the short throws common in a spread offense and on the deeper balls that are part of any system.
Yet analysts and football fans continuously doubt Newton’s ability to play QB at the next level. What has Locker done to suggest that he is any more ready? Sure, he plays in a more comparable system, but if he doesn’t find success in that system than the argument is moot.
If we question the future of one of these prospects, it is only fair to question the future of the other.
Many observers believe that because Locker is a tremendous leader and a fierce competitor, he can overcame his deficiencies by guiding his teammates.
These qualities are without a doubt important in an NFL QB, but they are still not enough to overcome the lack of mental make-up.
In the last decade, we have seen countless QBs come out of college with a reputation as a guy that teammates loved to follow, only to see them crash and burn—Joey Harrington, Matt Leinart, and Tim Couch come to mind.
The NFL is a league based on wins, success and financial security. If you are not winning games, your teammates are going to start to follow the player that can bring more wins and with it, more money.
Leadership ability only counts at the next level if success follows it.
HE’S STILL RAW
Since Locker isn’t even an NFL rookie, his tools have people drooling over the prospect of what he could become once an NFL team gets their hands on him.
However, what has he done to suggest that this ceiling is actually there? Working with Steve Sarkisian, a former NFL QB coach who guided the Raiders to the eighth-ranked passing offense in 2004, Locker has regressed, rather than shown improvement.
His completion percentage dropped from a mediocre 58 percent to 55 percent, he threw for almost 600 fewer yards, his yards per attempt dropped, as did his TD totals and his overall comfort level in the pocket seemed to plummet.
He’s spent two years working in a pro style offense and still appears incapable of passing from the pocket. Even during Senior Bowl practices when he has had time to throw, he appears uncertain with his footwork and incapable of going through his progressions. Only when he is on the run, has he found consistent collegiate success.
If he has been unable to improve in a pro style offense, run by a QB guru, why should anybody believe that he will find any more success in the NFL working in a pro style system under some other QB coach?