Ryan Tannehill hasn’t regressed, he’s better than ever

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 13: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans makes a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 13, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 13: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans makes a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 13, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

One of 2019’s best QB’s got a little better in 2020

Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 season needs no introduction, it was one of the most confounding campaigns from one of the most confusing quarterbacks in recent history.

A former first-round bust turned backup on a middling offense, and in the course of about three weeks, that same player was given the chance to start; and turned that same offense into one of the most efficient groups in the history of the league.

Tannehill’s brilliance in 2019 was never in question.

It’s easy enough to pick apart quarterback play while watching the TV broadcast from home, but at a certain point, leading the league in passer rating, trailing only the league MVP in TD%, and finishing with the 12th most accurate passing season in NFL history, debating how good Ryan Tannehill was in a 10-game sample size became an impossible task.

Yet, despite a Pro Bowl season, despite an AFC Championship appearance, despite the numbers, accolades, success, all of it– questions remained. Not because Tannehill wasn’t good enough in 2019, but because the player he was in 2019 wasn’t anywhere near what we had seen through his six seasons playing quarterback in Miami.

The new Titans quarterback was playing well, but just how long could he keep it up? Sure, the 2019 ride was fun, but after six seasons stuck in mediocrity on a middle of the road Miami Dolphins franchise, surely Tannehill was due to regress back into the player that he’s always been. And for an entire offseason’s worth of debate, that would remain the point where detractors hung their hat. 2019 was great, but a fluke, and trusting a guy off of 10 games of elite play would be a mistake heading into 2020.

But Ryan Tannehill hasn’t regressed. Rather, the opposite has happened. The 2020 version of Ryan Tannehill, the undisputed Titans starting quarterback, the guy piloting a 9-4 team with a top tier offense, hasn’t just been as good as his 2019 version– he’s been better.

Steps In The Right Direction

Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 season could have been defined by his high-level efficiency. In a Derrick Henry powered offense with a penchant for making noise on the ground first and foremost, Tannehill wasn’t often asked to carry the offensive load. But when he did get involved, it was typically spectacular.

The Titans quarterback racked up touchdowns with ease and took care of the football in the process. But it hasn’t just been more of the same there for Tannehill in 2020, it’s been a little bit better. Where he threw for 22 touchdowns and six interceptions throughout the season in 2019, Tannehill has improved on both marks, with 28 touchdown throws to five interceptions, both figures that rank top-six in the league for quarterbacks that have started in at least 10 games.

And while Tannehill’s accuracy might be down this season, dropping from 70% to 65.8%, the decrease has come in in place of efficiency, as the quarterback is now averaging more pass attempts per game and more yards along with it.

With the increase in volume, Tannehill is on pace to put himself into the Titans history books as well. His 28 touchdown passes with three games to go are already good for the third-most in franchise history, just eight shy of George Blanda’s record all the way back in 1961. Meanwhile, Tannehill finds himself right on the cusp of breaking 4,000 passing yards, which would make him the first quarterback in team history to hit that mark since Warren Moon in 1991.

But Tannehill’s numbers aren’t just good for franchise history, they’re also impressive compared to the league at large. Both TD% and INT%, Adjusted Air Yards per Attempt and Quarterback Rating, all stats where Tannehill ranks top five in the league, all helping put him in the top ten for Expected Points Added, ahead of players like Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, and Lamar Jackson.

Not only is Ryan Tannehill the perfect quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, but he would also be an upgrade over most starting quarterbacks in the league at this point. Tennessee gambled in the 2020 offseason, betting their Super Bowl window on a guy with 10 games worth of stellar play versus six years of play to the contrary. But the gamble is paying off, Ryan Tannehill is evolving, and the offense is looking as strong as ever heading into the end of the regular season.