Titans enjoy friendly, natural progression at quarterback
Two Seattle-groomed quarterbacks having fun competing for the starting NFL job with Tennessee.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tennessee @ Seattle,
7 p.m., Ch. 13
The torch was passed between the Tennessee Titans' quarterbacks earlier this week, the veteran giving way to the youngster.
"Jacob Cooper, get over here," Matt Hasselbeck said, though he actually kind of shouted. "Jacob Cooper Locker, when I call you, you get over here."
That's how the veteran summoned the first-round draft choice last year to the phone to talk about the exhibition game Saturday between the Seahawks and Titans at CenturyLink Field, drawing laughs from everyone listening.
"I knew it was serious when he used my full name," Locker joked.
That faux fight told you everything about the amount of animosity in the competition to become the Titans' starting quarterback. There is none. That shouldn't be surprising. After all, Hasselbeck and Locker didn't become cornerstones of Seattle sports by acting entitled and ornery. But their camaraderie is telling because while two of this city's favorite quarterbacks are currently in a heads-up duel for Tennessee's starting job, you'd never be able to tell by the way they talk about each other.
Locker: "I have just been very fortunate to have him a part of my life, both as a player, and as a person."
Hasselbeck: "It's a really, really good relationship."
It seems kind of fitting that the first exhibition game with the Titans' quarterback position wide open will be played in Seattle, the city that knows those two players best. It was only two years ago they were playing across town from each other, Hasselbeck starting for the Seahawks while Locker was a senior at Washington. That geographic proximity and a few mutual friends were about all that connected them, though, when the Titans chose Locker in the first round and then added Hasselbeck after the Seahawks chose not to re-sign him.
"We didn't really know each other," Hasselbeck said. "Even though we were in Seattle for so long together."
Hasselbeck came to Seattle in 2001 not only as a quarterback who was getting a chance to start, but a husband who was about to become a father for the first time. Now, Locker is the up-and-coming quarterback trying to earn a job, and a husband whose wife gave birth to their first child last month, a daughter named Colbie Jo.
Now, they are two players at different ends of a generation, Hasselbeck trying to hold onto the starting spot at least another year while Locker is looking to prove he's ready now. Hasselbeck will start the game Saturday before giving way to Locker.
Last year, the roles were clearly delineated as Hasselbeck was the veteran who had proved his chops, Locker the talented rookie who was getting accustomed to things.
This season is more like a crossroads on Tennessee's depth chart, but if that looks like a cutthroat scenario, it's only because you're outside the Titans' locker room.
"I don't feel like it has changed things," Locker said. "For me, I haven't approached it any different than I did last year. This is something that we are all hoping to make a career out of, and in my perspective, whether it is announced or not, you are in a competition every year."
Saturday, they'll return to the city where Hasselbeck became the most successful quarterback in Seahawks' history and Locker was drafted higher than any in the long line of touted quarterbacks who preceded him at Washington.
And while there might be room for only one starter in Tennessee, there's plenty of space for friendship between two of this city's favorite quarterbacks.
"The relationship has been awesome," Hasselbeck said. "My wife and his wife are friends, he's friends with my kids and I'm friends with his dad."
In fact, they're so close, Hasselbeck can use Locker's middle name if he wants.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.