What happened next?
If you don’t remember that date, I’m sure you know what happened next. We know now with the power of hindsight, that the season wasn’t over at all. Although the change very well could have signaled that, and honestly probably should have in any other circumstance.
The midseason quarterback swap is a lot like Seinfeld’s Roommate Switch— it can’t be done! Nobody can do the switch! Look across the league for recent examples. The Bengals benching Andy Dalton for Ryan Finley, the Washington Football Team swapping Case Keenum for Dwayne Haskins, or even better, Tyrod Taylor getting benched for Nathan Peterman in 2017. The point being, this kind of thing just isn’t done. Unless you’re planning on losing even worse than before.
Ryan Tannehill became the exception, and the decision by Mike Vrabel to send him in for that Week 6 shutout to see what he could do changed the course of the 2019 season. And not just because he became a better starter for the Titans than Mariota was, but because Tannehill became one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Tannehill was sharp, decisive, accurate, and athletic in a way that not only helped the Titans get some wins in what felt like a lost season, but in a way that elevated the team around him– leading to that miracle playoff run. And even better, leading to a 2020 season where a deep playoff run would feel less like a miracle, and more like the expectation.
Throwing Ryan Tannehill into the mix in the middle of the season came with one million different things that could have gone wrong. But it turned out to be a revolution for the 2019 Titans– one that could shape their 2020 season.