The Tennessee Titans have gone 0-3 in their last three playoff games and when that happens all eyes go to the quarterback position.
Let’s be clear, Ryan Tannehill had his worst game as the Titans’ starting quarterback in their playoff game this year, full stop. However, people have conflated that performance with the team’s loss against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 and against the Baltimore Ravens in 2020.
You can check the tape, but his performances in those two games weren’t anything close to what happened in the Cincinnati Bengals game this year.
(WARNING: I’m about to hurt your feelings, so turn back now if you don’t want to hear this.)
The issues that held the Titans back in those games had nothing to do with Ryan Tannehill.
In Kansas City, Tennessee had the lead before the defense completely crumbled right before halftime. If they make one stop on the 2-minute drill, the Titans would have gone into halftime with a 17-14 lead and they could have continued to play their style of football.
Speaking of their style of football, no matter what happens the Titans have shown that their goal is to force the run game. When you have a future Hall of Fame running back like Derrick Henry, that plan usually works out (just look at the numbers in the last two playoff wins).
However, when it doesn’t work it really doesn’t work. Running poorly on 1st/2nd down pushes you into a lot of 3rd and long situations. The injury to Corey Davis and the Ravens defense completely suffocating Derrick Henry (18 carries for just 40 yards and a long of 8 yards!) doomed that team.
What does this have to do with the Tennessee Titans drafting a QB?
If you are pushing for the Tennessee Titans to take a quarterback in this draft class your best argument is that you want a quarterback who can elevate the offense and convert those 3rd and longs if the running game sputters out.
Well, I have some terrible news for you…that quarterback isn’t in this class. At least not at the top of this class.
Marcus Mosher does a great job providing numbers that matter for draft prospects and his stats on pass rushers are outstanding as well, so I encourage you to go check him out. Here he is using unbiased numbers to show which QBs help their team the most on third down.
When you include sacks into this, Sam Howell, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and Matt Corral all have poor showings here.
The only player who might provide the Titans a boost is Kenny Pickett, but the big knocks on him are his arm strength, his pocket awareness, and his hand size leading to fumbles.
Those don’t sound like big problems, but combining them together can be an issue. Putting Pickett on the Tennessee Titans means that you will have a quarterback who can’t stretch the field with his arm which means that defenses could load up the box to stop the run without fearing the deep shot on play action.
Suddenly, the Titans would be playing offense within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, and everything has to be even more precise and less explosive than it was before. On the rare occasions where you want to try the deep shot, you have to hope that Pickett doesn’t struggle with pocket awareness because if he gets sacked he is probably going to fumble (38 fumbles in 49 starts).
I know it is frustrating and fans want someone to blame, but drafting a quarterback is not the answer. You are asking the team to make a commitment to someone who doesn’t help them and who will probably never be better than Ryan Tannehill was last year (his worst year with the Titans).
My strategy would be to make this offense as quarterback-proof as possible. Not in a negative way to imply that Ryan Tannehill can’t win games because remember, he did drag the Titans to the 1-seed last year with Derrick Henry, Taylor Lewan, Julio Jones, and A.J. Brown all missing significant time (and when they were out there they weren’t 100%).
Look at what the San Francisco 49ers did over the last few years. They built up their offensive line in free agency and in the draft and they spent premium picks on Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Where they messed up was when they tried to make a play for a quarterback and they traded up for Trey Lance.
If they make that trade with the idea of adding help for Jimmy Garoppolo, they could have drafted Ja’Marr Chase. Even if a trade-up for a wide receiver is unrealistic, they could have spent their original pick on a Pro Bowl rookie tackle like Rashawn Slater, or they could have taken BPA and grabbed Pro Bowl EDGE/LB Micah Parsons who was selected with their original pick.
The 49ers lost the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl-winning L.A. Rams by a score of 21-17. If they had used their pick on anything other than a quarterback who spent the season on the bench, maybe they are in the Super Bowl and maybe it is Nick Bosa sacking Joe Burrow to end the game.
Instead, they tried to build for the future while they were still in a championship window, and it cost them. You don’t want the Tennessee Titans to make the same mistake.