Tennessee Titans have an elite quarterback in Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports /

What makes Tannehill elite

What makes Ryan Tannehill truly elite, especially within the system that the Tennessee Titans have built their team around, is his running ability and athleticism.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. How can a quarterback who rushes fewer times per game (3.24) than Justin Herbert (3.71) or Patrick Mahomes (3.88) be an effective threat?

Well, as a former wide receiver, Tannehill possesses a sneaky level of athletic ability that often catches opponents off-guard.

Pair that with his football intelligence (Fun fact: Tannehill scored a 34 on his Wonderlic test if you are into that kind of thing), natural ability as a passer, and you have a remarkably unique weapon on offense.

In fact, Tannehill ranks third in rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks since 2019 with 18. Putting him behind only Kyler Murray and Josh Allen who each have more than two times the rushing attempts.

Tannehill’s knack for finding the endzone helps explain why Tennessee’s offense has been so efficient during his time as the quarterback. Since he has taken over, the Titans’ offense has ranked top-five in touchdown percentage in the redzone for the last three seasons.

So, no, Tannehill is not a runner in the same way that Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, or Josh Allen is where much of their offense is designed around read-option plays.

Tannehill is what you would call an opportunistic runner. Since 2019, he is eighth in his position in yards per attempt with 5.3 (Better than Deshaun Watson at 5.0, Josh Allen at 4.9, and Carson Wentz at 4.3).

One of the best examples of the advantage that Tannehill’s athleticism provides was on display in the crucial week 16 victory over the 49ers.

With the score tied at 17, the Titans take possession of the ball with two minutes left in the game. Following consecutive positive gains, the Tennessee Titans have a first down with 1:20 remaining and need a score to win. Tannehill takes the snap and does something that few quarterbacks in this league have the ability to do.

With pressure coming and the defense glued to his receivers, Tannehill takes off, jukes two 49ers as he crosses midfield, sheds a tackle at the 40-yard line, and dives forward to the 30 for a 23-yard gain. His run put kicker Randy Bullock in prime position to hit the game-winning field goal with 8 seconds left.

This was not the only remarkably athletic play made by Tannehill that night either. Earlier in the game on a third and 23 at the end of the third quarter, Tannehill draws the 49ers offside before moving out of a collapsing pocket and launching a spectacular 40-yard pass across his body to A.J. Brown.

This athletic ability combined with his high-level pocket passing sets Tannehill apart from other quarterbacks.

Not only was Tannehill’s remarkable performance lead to the 26th game-winning drive of his career (9th among active quarterbacks, behind Aaron Rodgers who has 27) but it should also put him among the ranks of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks.

In a primetime game, these were two of the most important plays of the season for the Titans and there are few quarterbacks in the league that could have even made just one of those plays.