Zach Mettenberger was sitting on his couch Tuesday afternoon in Nashville when his agent gave him a call.
It was only one day earlier that he got the message all football players’ dread.
A member of the Titans front office fetched him from the locker room, telling him the head coach wanted to see him. He then found out he’d been placed on waivers.
Mettenberger wouldn’t learn his fate for another 24 hours, but admitted his mind wandered into the worst possible scenario. The phone call from his agent put his mind at ease when he told the QB he’d been claimed by the San Diego Chargers.
The next phone call he received came from his former head coach and new offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt.
“Coach Whiz called me right after,” he said. “He is the one who really broke the ice for me. I was definitely relieved to come to a situation where the future looks good for me. That was a long 24 hours to be waiting, so it was great to hear his voice. The first thing he asked was if I still remembered the playbook. Fortunately, I know it really well. He was really excited to get back to work with me. He was the one who drafted me, so it’s worked out really well. It’s awesome to be back with Coach Whiz and Coach (John) McNulty.”
Since arriving, Mettenberger has gone through a crash course in the Bolts offense. That also means spending ample time with Philip Rivers. Although he’d never met number 17 prior to becoming a Charger, Mettenberger already feels like he’s known him a long time for good reason.
“It’s pretty weird. I played with his brother (Stephen) for two years in college. I played with Charlie Whitehurst for a couple years in Tennessee. So I feel like I’ve known Philip for years now. To get to watch him work and go about his business has been special. You get to see how a guy who has been so successful in this league operates.”
A former sixth round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2014, the 6-5, 224-pound Mettenberger has completed 208 of 345 attempts (60.3%) for 2,347 yards and 12 touchdowns over 14 games (10 starts). Seven of those starts came under Whisenhunt as a rookie when he threw for 1,412 yards and eight touchdowns, posting a 83.4 passer rating that ranked second among all rookie QBs to start at least one game.
Only 24 years old, Mettenberger has been through a lot already in his NFL career. Now, he’s grateful for a fresh start in America’s Finest City.
“I’m a tough, hardnosed guy. I am going to try and do whatever I need to do to make this team better, whatever role that is. Whether that means being the backup or the third-string guy, I’ll do whatever they need me to do. It was tough to be in Tennessee behind a guy like Marcus (Mariota), where there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. Being here has put the wind back in my sails.”
The Chargers host Mettenberger’s former team in Week 9, but that won’t be his first chance to square off against the Titans. San Diego opens the preseason slate in the Music City on Aug. 13 in a game the quarterback figures to see plenty of action. While aware his first game in a Chargers uniform will be against his old team, Mettenberger hasn’t paid that much mind.
“It will be a fun experience to head back there, stand on the opposing bench and get to play with it being an early preseason game. But I haven’t really thought about it much. I’m focused on getting (acclimated) here. It’s easier picking it back up having been around Whiz before. I haven’t hit any walls with the playbook yet. Right now I’m just competing, trying to keep up with Philip, stay in his back pocket and learn as much as possible.”