published Friday, May 11th, 2012

Wiedmer: Tennessee Titans' leftovers not bad

New Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning appears during an NFL football news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
New Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning appears during an NFL football news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Two months have passed since Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams' failed public pursuit of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Remember Bud's words:

"He is the man I want. Period. And the people that work for me understand that. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans, and I will be disappointed if it doesn't happen."

You couldn't blame Adams, of course. Just as every 12-year-old boy on the planet probably wishes his girlfriend was Selena Gomez other than her own boyfriend Justin Bieber (who only looks 12), every NFL owner excepting Denver's Pat Bowlen (who acquired Manning), Colts owner Jim "Demolition Man" Irsay (who let him go) and New England's Robert Kraft (who has Tom Brady) probably secretly covets Manning.

Or as Mike Keith -- the Voice of the Titans -- said during the team's caravan stop here Wednesday: "It wasn't about us wanting a quarterback. It was about Peyton Manning, one of the top five quarterbacks in NFL history. It was Haley's Comet."

But now that the Comet has landed in the Mile High City (where else?), there are surely some hurt feelings among the Titans quarterbacks left behind, aren't there?

Aren't both veteran Matt Hasselbeck -- who threw for 3,571 yards and 18 Titans touchdowns last season -- and his heir apparent, Jake Locker, nursing bruised egos at the moment?

And if not, why not?

"[Peyton's] one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the position, so you have to consider that," Locker said before signing more than 300 autographs at Academy Sports and Outdoors at Hamilton Place.

"But I was already working with a pretty good quarterback in Matt. He's taught me a lot, and I'm sure he'll teach me more this season."

Yet it surely hurt on some level, didn't it, knowing the owner wanted to bring in someone else for the next two or three years, knowing that at least one writer in Los Angeles was ready to dub him Jake (Cleaned Out) Locker if Manning had become a Titan?

"I think Peyton ultimately ended up where he wanted to be and we're going to be just fine," Locker said.

But Locker is entering his second season as a pro. He could watch and wait, as Aaron Rodgers did for several years in Green Bay before Brett Favre was finally shown the door.

Again, Keith: "Where Locker's concerned, getting Peyton or not getting Peyton wasn't really going to change anything. Jake was still going to be the future quarterback of this franchise whether Peyton came or not."

But Hasselbeck is different. He's 36 years old. He's got a wife and kids and a hope that Nashville could be his home for a few years. Acquiring Manning almost certainly would have changed that.

"If the owner wants to make a change and pursue someone in free agency, that could happen on any team, anywhere at any time," Hasselbeck told The Tennessean newspaper after Manning signed with the Broncos.

"Bottom line is we are happy we get to stay in Nashville."

But what about the players most affected by the quarterback -- the receivers who catch the passes? What were potential Pro Bowl guys like Kenny Britt thinking during the team's brief flirtation with Manning?

"I can't be involved in stuff like that," Britt said at the caravan stop. "I'm not making that decision. I'm just a player. We all know what kind of quarterback Peyton Manning is, but I think we've got two good quarterbacks in Jake and Matt."

Asked for details, he said: "They're different. Jake likes to run around back there. Matt wants to get rid of the ball in three seconds, so you better be open in three seconds. You've got more time with Jake. But they both throw the ball where you want it, where you can easily catch it."

It should be noted that Titans coach Mike Munchak and the team's front office never seemed as enamored with the pursuit of Manning as Adams.

In fact, Hasselbeck told the Nashville media in late March that "the coaches were honest with me in the process, and as a player that is all you can really ask for."

As for the fans, longtime Titans supporter Chris Miraldi is still in jilted mode.

Said Miraldi, a ballcap signed by Locker atop his head: "I wish we could have gotten Manning."

It's tough to blame him. Everyone wants to see Haley's Comet at least once in their lives.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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