Arguably the biggest question mark for the Tennessee Titans going into the 2020 season revolves around the uncertainty of the quarterback position, but in reality their best option is the same one they have had all along.
As of right now, the Tennessee Titans don’t have a legitimate starting quarterback under contract once the free agency negotiating period begins on March 16th.
Tennessee figures to be one of the more intriguing markets for free agents to look at this off-season considering they just came up one game short of the Super Bowl, on top of the fact that they have no state income tax.
The real question is if there will be a mutual interest from the team.
With all of the big-name quarterbacks that could potentially hit the market, this year’s free agency period has the potential to be one of the most wild offseasons in recent memory.
There has been a ton of speculation as to who could possibly be under center for the Titans in 2020. Everyone from Tom Brady to Andy Dalton has been part of the conversation, and that conversation grows more disrespectful by the day when it doesn’t include Ryan Tannehill.
Last season, Tannehill took over a 2-4 team that was all but dead and helped lead a drastic turnaround that landed the team in the AFC Championship Game, all while putting up one of the best individual statistical seasons for a quarterback in Titans history.
If you didn’t know anything about Tannehill prior to coming to Nashville, you would think this guy is a slam dunk franchise quarterback after last season.
Unfortunately for the former Texas A&M star, there is a reputation of mediocrity that he developed during his time in Miami that he just can’t seem to shake. A lot of that negativity was built up during the latter years of his Dolphins tenure due to a plethora of serious injuries that often led to very inconsistent play.
What people fail to realize is that reputation was built on a ton of misconceptions, mostly from people stumbling across a couple of bad highlights shown on SportsCenter instead of actually watching the guy play. That has led to people drawing their own irrational conclusions without considering the context of his inconsistent play.
No one is pretending like Tannehill was elite at any point of his career, but there were many times that he showed that he was more than capable of being a franchise worthy quarterback.
As a Dolphin, Tannehill was one of three quarterbacks in NFL History to throw for over 15,000 yards in his first four years. Eventually, he finished his Dolphins career with over 20,000 passing yards, all while consistently helping one of his top receivers eclipse the 100-catch threshold four seasons in a row.
Tannehill also had three consecutive seasons with over 3,900 passing yards, and threw for at least 24 touchdowns during that three-year stretch prior to the injuries that eventually derailed his career in Miami — injuries that occurred in large part because he never had an offensive line rank better than 25th.
That ultimately led to him being sacked a whopping 248 times in a little over five seasons as a healthy starter, approximately an average of 45 sacks per year.
Miami felt so good about their first-round investment during the first couple of years that they decided to extend the quarterback to a $95 million contract back in 2015. In fact, Tannehill was the first of the three first-round quarterbacks from the 2012 NFL Draft class to earn a second deal and is the only one who is still starting today (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III).
His career started to rapidly decline following the 2016, a season in which he had the Dolphins in position to make the playoffs following an impressive 8-5 start.
Tannehilll unfortunately suffered a partially torn ACL that ended his promising season during the team’s Week 14 victory over the Cardinals. He then re-tore the ACL completely prior to the 2017 season, causing him to miss the entire year. He returned to the field in 2018 but didn’t look nearly as sharp as he did pre-injury.
To make matters worse, Tannehill suffered a severe shoulder injury that cost him another five games in 2018 (yet, people still had the audacity to ask what did Tannehill come back from to garner Comeback Player of the Year honors).
The combination of injuries and inconsistencies eventually led Miami to move on, which helped pave the way for the former No. 8 overall pick and castoff to fall right into Tennessee’s lap following an exchange of mid-round picks.
After taking over as the starting quarterback for the Titans in Week 7, Tannehill went on to have career-highs in completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards per attempt and quarterback rating, among other impressive individual numbers.
He often took advantage of the opposing defenses’ fear of superstar running back Derrick Henry, which would open up the passing lanes for the offense to exploit. The Texas A&M product finished the season with an absurd passer rating of 140.6 when running play action, the best in the NFL.
The offense as a whole was able to to excel with Tannehill under center, as it went from an extremely stagnant offense that averaged 11 points per game (Weeks 2-6) to an explosive, high-powered, two-dimensional offense that averaged 30.4 points per game the rest of the way.
This explosion ultimately helped the team punch their ticket to their first conference championship game in over 17 years.
A lot of people are questioning whether this season under Tannehill was a fluke when in reality everyone should be asking themselves if this is the resurrection of a career happening before our eyes.
As hard as it is, try and forget what happened in Miami during those injury-plagued Adam Gase years, and try to remember the promising young star that earned himself a $95 million contract for throwing for over 20,000 yards and 123 passing touchdowns.
Also remember that he accomplished those numbers throwing to, at best, average skill players more often than not, all the while playing behind an offensive line that allowed 248 sacks during his five-and-a-half years as a healthy starter.
Not to mention, the former Dolphins signal-caller also accumulated 1,210 yards on the ground and six rushing touchdowns during that span.
Rather than punishing him for being under toxic and incompetent leadership, while also being surrounded by mediocrity for the majority of his Dolphins career, think about the possibilities of this talented quarterback finally being on a team that consistently surrounds him with talent.
This very well could be the beginning of a revival of a star quarterback that is finally on a team where he will never have to do it alone. That is something that the Titans can not let go of without figuring out if this was just a temporary spark, or a full blown flaming ember that will light the city of Nashville for years to come.