Photo via Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
On October 13, 2019, the Tennessee Titans were sitting in a dire situation. They dejectedly walked off the field in Denver after getting shutout 16-0 by the previous 1-4 Broncos, and the week prior, they lost to the 3-1 Bills 14-7 after missing four field goals. They were sitting at 2-4 and had just benched starting quarterback and former number two-overall pick Marcus Mariota. From a team loaded on paper and a team that had posted a winning record the previous three seasons, this start was unacceptable. It was time to make a change at quarterback and the Titans decided to start Ryan Tannehill, the former Miami Dolphins quarterback, for their Week 7 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Tannehill is a quarterback that was a former wide receiver at Texas A&M. He took over at the starting quarterback job in the middle of the 2010 season after struggling at 4-3. Tannehill went on to go 5-0 as a starter in the regular season and solidified the starting job for the 2011 season. While only going 7-6, he impressed the NFL scouts enough with his athleticism and accuracy that he was drafted eighth overall in the 2012 draft by the Miami Dolphins.
In his time with the Dolphins, he averaged 22 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 3,865 yards in his first four seasons with the Dolphins. Very mediocre as were the Dolphins as they went 7-9, 8-8, 8-8 and 6-10 in those seasons. In 2016, he led the Dolphins to an 8-5 start before tearing his ACL in a 26-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14. The Dolphins would end up making the playoffs but lost in the Wild Card round with Matt Moore in his place.
He would miss all of 2017 with another knee injury suffered in training camp and would return in 2018, but would miss another five games with an injury. He went 5-6 as a starter and was let go as the Dolphins began their tank job.
He signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Tennessee Titans this past off-season to give them another option in case the injury-prone Marcus Mariota gets injured again. Last season, the Titans were 9-6 and had a chance at a Wild Card spot. They lost Mariota due to injury and with Blaine Gabbert filling in, they lost 34-17 to the Indianapolis Colts in a win or go home Week 17 game.
Back to Denver, the Titans were 2-4 and tried to revitalize their offense by going with the veteran Tannehill. Tannehill made coach Mike Vrabel’s decision pay off in a huge way so far. The Titans have been 4-1 with Tannehill so far and are now currently tied for the sixth seed in the AFC Wild Card race. Tannehill has thrown ten touchdowns and four interceptions in five starts and has looked the best he has had in his eight-year career. How has this happened? Two reasons: the Titans’ offense is perfect for Tannehill and he has great weapons to work with.
The Titans’ offense flows with Derrick Henry pounding the rock, and the play-action game that works for chunk plays with 5-15 yard passes over the middle of the field. With Tannehill, he is very efficient with the play-action game and medium passes fit his style perfectly. Tannehill does not have the arm strength to throw deep passes and utilizing medium passes well for the offense, which Mariota himself used.
Also, having a running back like Derrick Henry is something Tannehill has not had to work with before. Having a dominant running game can work wonders with a play-action style offense. Having an explosive young weapon like AJ Brown and other solid options like Adam Humphries and Corey Davis is nice, but having Henry to rely on makes the quarterback’s job easier. Henry in their last two games has rushed for 347 yards and two touchdowns in victories over the Chiefs and Jaguars and has made this offense dangerous.
When it comes to Tannehill’s future, he is set to be a free agent this offseason and the Titans have a huge decision to make. He will earn about 3 extra million dollars in incentives, and there will be teams vying for his services. It will depend on the next five weeks. Tannehill will face off against teams who all have winning records. If he performs well and leads the Titans to the playoffs, he should become the Titans’ starter next year, which would be similar to his 2010 Texas A&M season. If he doesn’t, they should look elsewhere for a solution at quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill has been a great story in the month of November in the NFL, and if he can stay healthy and keep up this performance, he will find himself well-payed and under-center consistently. With today’s win at Indianapolis, Tannehill may have found himself a new home as the franchise quarterback of the Tennessee Titans.