Tennessee Titans: Why Not Start Rusty Smith These Last 2 Games?


November 24, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Rusty Smith (11) passes the football against the Oakland Raiders before the game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Rusty Smith. Let him replace Ryan Fitzpatrick for these final games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. What do the Tennessee Titans have to lose?

(Imagines Mike Munchak reading that, thinking “my job, you idiot”).

Okay…at this point, that’s probably the only reason. Jake Locker can’t play because he’s injured. With a 1-6 record as a starter, Fitzpatrick hasn’t guaranteed himself a roster spot for the 2014-15 NFL season.  John Skelton and Smith are swamped at the bottom of the depth chart, basically getting a free paycheck.

Smith and Skelton aren’t long-term starters for the Titans—or any team—in the near future. Is there anything there that indicates that either player could provide a serviceable backup?

It’s been a bit baffling to see Smith’s career in Tennessee. For the majority of the last four seasons, the Titans have stored Smith on their roster or practice squad. They must like him. Why would they keep him this long if they didn’t see something worthwhile?

The Titans kept Smith around, however, this past offseason, they weren’t willing to promote him to No. 2 quarterback. They elected to replace Matt Hasselbeck with Fitzpatrick. That move, while it looks decent in some stat columns, has offered nothing of value in the win column.

This franchise will never have a better opportunity to see what they have in Smith—or even Skelton—than they do now. Now that they’re mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, it’s the perfect time to get some scouting done on their young quarterbacks. Do Smith or Skelton have anything to offer? If they don’t fare well against the Jaguars or Texans secondary, then stop wasting time and roster space on these projects.

Can Smith play in the NFL or will he perform as poorly as he did in that 20-0 loss in his only career start (2010)? Let’s find out. His 2010 stats: 20-of-40 for 200 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. The Titans have spent three seasons trying to develop from that. Have any improvements been made?

My point is that now’s the time to put him in two regular-season, semi-meaningful games. See if there’s anything worthwhile. Give yourself visible evidence about whether he could manage a No. 2 role. If not? Then stop investing time, money and energy into this project.