When I watched Super Bowl XLVII, it was easy to see how far away from the big stage the Tennessee Titans are in general and quarterback Jake Locker in particular.
Locker was picked No. 8 in the 2011 NFL draft, the second quarterback picked behind No. 1 choice Cam Newton.
San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick wasn’t picked until the second round at No. 4, one spot behind Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Kaepernick saw 35 players drafted ahead of him, five of them a quarterback.
This season, he was stuck behind starter Alex Smith until Smith suffered a concussion and missed a couple of weeks. But 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had a hunch that Kaepernick was their quarterback of the future and kept him under center. He took the Niners to their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
Locker can’t do the things I watched Kaepernick do in the playoffs and Super Bowl. He doesn’t have Kaepernick’s accuracy or arm strength, although Locker can run as can Kaepernick.
Locker missed five games this season with a shoulder injury on his non-throwing arm. He has since had surgery on it.
Locker got mop-up appearances in five games as a rookie. He was 34 of 66 for 542 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Locker started 11 games this past season, but went out in the first quarter against Houston and didn’t return. He completed 56.4 percent of his 314 passes for 10 touchdowns, but suffered 11 interceptions. He was sacked 25 times for a negative of 151 yards and had a 74.0 quarterback rating.
Locker ran 41 times for 291 yards, averaging 7.1 yards and scored one touchdown.
Kaepernick got his first start this season, starting seven games and appearing in 13 games. The former Nevada quarterback was 136 of 218 attempts for 1,814 yards, 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He was sacked 16 times and had a 98.3 quarterback rating – 24 points higher than Locker. He ran the ball 63 times for 415 yards, a 6.6 yard-per-carry average. He scored five touchdowns on the ground.
To this point in their careers, the advantage goes to Kaepernick. The Titans won only six games this season, in no small part due to a defense that surrendered the most points of any team in franchise history.
San Francisco was one of those teams that got hot at the right time. The 49ers were 7-2-1 leading into the playoffs where they won three games as a No. 2 seed.
All NFL coaches use the hackneyed phrase about their teams needing to make plays. Well, I saw a lot more playmakers on the Super Bowl team rosters than I see when the Titans play.
It hasn’t been that long since the 49ers franchise was in disarray, with problems of ownership and down the line. You can turn an NFL franchise around fairly quickly, but you have to have the right pieces in place, starting with the owner and followed by the right coaches, scouting department and other support personnel.
It’s up to them to identify their needs. Once that is determined, the financial commitment to re-sign key players and free agents has to be in place.
You can’t get to the Super Bowl by cutting corners, by being chintzy with the money. If you are not willing to do what it takes, the closest your team will get to the Super Bowl is in front of a television.
Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org