NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Charlie Whitehurst will become the Titans' third starting quarterback in as many weeks Thursday night in Jacksonville – not a surprise to the veteran signal-caller given the way this season has gone for the Titans.
"It's been the craziest year of football I've been a part of and I've been doing it for a long time," Whitehurst said.
Ken Whisenhunt brought Whitehurst with him to Nashville after they spent the 2013 season together with the Chargers in San Diego. This is exactly the reason Whisenhunt wanted to sign the nine-year veteran QB – the ability to step in on short notice, execute the game plan, and ultimately to be a productive passer.
The start will be Whitehurst's fourth this season, doubling his previous career-highs of two starts in 2010 and 2011 with Seattle. From Week 8 to Week 15 however, Whitehurst was inactive after being dropped to third on the depth chart with rookie Zach Mettenberger being given the starting nod.
Two weeks and two shoulder injuries later, the job is Whitehurst's once again.
Whitehurst's season includes a 16-14 Week 6 victory over the same Jaguars he's about to face again on Thursday. In that game Whitehurst threw for a career-high 233 yards on 17 completions without turning the ball over. On the year, the Titans' opening day backup has 967 passing yards, five touchdowns and just two interceptions. Unless disaster strikes on Thursday, Whitehurst will have his first career 1,000-yard season.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances of his teammates going down, he said he's enjoyed his most active season as a pro.
"It's been good," said Whitehurst. "The circumstances aren't great and I came here as a backup, but when something like this does happen, there's no substitute for it. You get to play in the NFL ... You definitely feel more a part of the team and I hope I can go out there and help the team win ... It's been fun to do it and see what you're made of."
Whitehurst never dwelled on his demotion from second to third string midway through the season. Maybe in his early NFL days those things would have gotten to Whitehurst, but not now. He said as his career has gone on, he's learned to not make life more complicated than it has to be.
"The older I get I don't even really think like that anymore," Whitehurst said. "Maybe when you're younger you worry about where you're at [on the depth chart]. I take things one day at a time. I don't plan my life any more than one day because why? What's the point?"
It's the end of the season, everyone is dealing with their respective bumps and bruises, and there is no other choice than to take things day by day. But despite a 2-12 record, Whitehurst said no one in the locker room has any plans of throwing in the towel on this season.
"We don't really have a lot to lose," he said. "That's kind of our mindset. We're going to go out there, be confident and try to get a win … We're playing for pride and we're not playing for anything else. Let's go out there and have fun and see what happens."
Whether it's the best of times or in the Titans case, some of the worst of times, playing in the NFL is still a privilege that can't be taken for granted. That's a lesson Whitehurst has learned during his nine-year career.
"You need to make sure you're having a good time and enjoy the ride because it's not going to last and that's what I'm trying to do," he said.