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Armando Salguero: Titans Have Needed Ryan Tannehill To Be Great, He Hasn’t Even Been Good

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Maybe the Tennessee Titans are starting to realize in Year 3 of Ryan Tannehill what it took the Miami Dolphins seven years to figure out: That their quarterback is a good guy and solid leader and very athletic.

And when he scores touchdowns he’s got a cool Jordanesque celebration move.

But elite quarterback?

Guy who can carry his team or overcome his offense’s deficiencies?

Tannehill’s not that guy.

He’s never been that guy.

The Titans lost their third game in the last month on Sunday, a 19-13 disappointment to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And afterward Tannehill talked about Tennessee’s high confidence in being able to rally late and win the game despite mistakes.

It sounded very uplifting.

“…For as many mistakes we had throughout the game, to have a shot there at the end and to be moving the ball, with the ton of confidence that we had in the huddle, that we were going to walk away with the win, find a way to score at the end,” Tannehill said sizing up the situation.

“Felt confident moving the ball down the field. You know, we had some big runs, good pass
completions to keep us going there. But, unfortunately, just came up whatever it was, a few inches short.”

The Titans’ final offensive play indeed gained 6 yards to the Steelers 10 yard line. The problem is it was fourth-and-7 at the time.

So regardless of the mark, which the Titans wished would have been slightly different, it wasn’t good enough.

And that’s kind of been a theme with Tannehill.

Tannehill is a $118 million quarterback who has not played like it this season. He had a nice season in 2020 when everyone around him was mostly healthy and running back Derrick Henry gained 2,027 rushing yards.

But ask Tannehill to carry a team as the Titans have needed this year because Henry went down with a foot injury Oct. 31, and he’s simply not up to the task.

He certainly wasn’t on Sunday. Tannehill completed 23 of 32 passes for 153 yards with 1 interception in the loss. The Titans scored only one touchdown all game.

In the second half when the game was decided, Tannehill completed 9 of 12 passes for 37 yards with the pick, and the Titans were shut out.

Tannehill was outplayed by an opposing quarterback who didn’t throw a touchdown, threw for less than 200 yards and is 39 years old.

“It’s a sick feeling,” Tannehill said. “Any time you walk away with a loss, it’s a sick feeling.”

Two of Tennessee’s final three possessions of this game ended in a turnover. Those two turnovers were a Tannehill interception and then a Tannehill fumbled center snap.

“Yeah, I don’t know exactly what happened there,” Tannehill said. “It’s wild. I don’t know how many snaps I’ve taken with Ben [Jones] over the last three years, and I don’t think we’ve ever had one on the ground at practice or anything.

“It’s a sick feeling. And, you know, for whatever reason, I didn’t get a handle on it. Not something I’m worried about moving forward. But just terrible timing for something like that to come up.”

It’s good Tannehill isn’t worried about future center exchanges because he’s got other pressing issues to address.

He’s thrown 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this year, which is nowhere near what the Titans need, especially in Henry’s absence.

About that: Tennessee’s star running back has missed six games so far and Tannehill has been unable to pass for even 200 yards in four of those.

He’s also been unable to throw more than one touchdown in any of those six games.

Tannehill hasn’t thrown even one TD the last two games.

Yes, Tannehill’s been completing passes. His completion percentage is at a solid 66.2 percent. But those passes have generally not stretched the field with any consistency.

Tannehill’s average yards per pass attempt is 6.9 for the season, which is his lowest mark since 2014 and in the last six games without Henry on the field, he’s been under 6 yards per pass attempt in three of those games.

Tannehill fans, by the way, will argue their quarterback would be much better if A.J. Brown was in the lineup. The receiver hasn’t played since Nov. 21 because of a chest injury.

That would help. But Brown and Tannehill didn’t team up for a touchdown in any of the last three games Brown played before his injury and also not in seven of 10 games he’s played all year.

The Titans need better in their final three games starting with San Francisco on Thursday night, then Miami and the Houston Texans in the regular-season finale. Tannehill has to play better in those games so the Titans don’t get passed in the standings by the surging Indianapolis Colts.

And Tannehill has a personal stake in all this as well. He’s scheduled to cost a whopping $38.6 million on the Titans salary cap next season.

Like the Dolphins were in 2019 when a large bill came due for Tannehill then, the Titans may be tempted to move in a different direction if their quarterback continues on his current 14-TD and 14-interception arc.

Because that’s simply not good enough.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

2 Comments

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  1. I’m sorry but with no AJ Brown, Julio Jones or Derrick Henry on the field there isn’t anyone squeezing much juice out of this offense. Injuries have completely crushed this offense at every key position. No team can lose their top 2 receivers and starting tailback and maintain offensive consistency.

    • Agree 100%. It helps to watch the game as I have done on NFL Game pass. Jones is hurt. Tannehill lobs a 40 yard completion to Westbrook, perfectly thrown. He drops it.
      Pass get to receiver hands in the end zone and get dropped.
      Passes get caught and get fumbled. Two in the last game.
      Tannehill has to run the ball in to score. Seven rushing TD this year including two in the last two games.
      Tennessee relied too much on Julio Jones who has been hurt. They are missing Davis and Smith.

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