By the Numbers: Ryan Tannehill’s 2021

On February 21st, PFF released its 2022 QB Annual, which goes into great detail about the 2021 season for NFL quarterbacks. This year they examined data on 39 different NFL passers, and they do a 10-page spread on each quarterback.

Obviously with this being a Tennessee Titans website we will be looking at how Ryan Tannehill measures up to his 31 contemporaries on some of the advanced stats you can find, and take his average ranking and see in the end how his 2021 measured up.

Their signature stats

We are going to be focusing on five of their signature stats to go with some of the more widely known advanced stats. Here are the five that we will be looking at:

  • Big Time Throws vs Turnover-worthy plays
  • Time To Throw and Average Depth of Target
  • Adjust Completion Percentage
  • Passing When Clean and Pressured
  • Positive and Negative Grade Percentage

Big Time Throws vs Turnover-Worthy Plays

Just in case you don’t know what these terms mean lets put it in layman’s terms. Big time throws, BTT, are passes of the highest end of both difficulty and value. While turnover-worthy plays, TWP, are passes that have a high percentage chance to be intercepted or do a poor job of taking care of the ball and fumbling.

When combined these stats produce four different categories a quarterback can fall into:

  • Best: Higher than average BTT % and a low TWP % (Kyler Murray)
  • Safe: Lower than average BTT%, and low TWP % (Justin Herbert)
  • Volatile: High BTT % and a High TWP % (Matt Stafford)
  • Worst: Low BTT% and a High TWP% (Jimmy Garoppolo)

I am sure this will come as a huge shock to everyone, but Tannehill falls into the worst category. There is no doubt about it, Tannehill was plagued by his poor decision making for the entire year, and when you mix that with lack of playmakers, and a sub par offensive line pass blocking, it’s just a recipe for disaster.

Tannehill’s Ranks: 20th (BTT) / 19th (TWP)*

*TWP: higher = worst

Time To Throw and Average Depth of Target

Basically, quarterbacks and offensives schemes that push the ball downfield tend to come with longer average time to throws, but there’s always exceptions to this rule. This can be summed up into four categories for an offense:

  • Get Ball Downfield Quickly: Shorter time to throw, and higher average depth of target.
  • Long-developing Deep Passes: Longer time to throw, and higher average depth of target.
  • Quick, Short Passes: Shorter time to throw, and lower average depth of target.
  • Hold Onto Ball, Without Getting it Downfield: Longer time to throw, and lower average depth of target.

Obviously, the last one is not the ideal one you want your QB and passing offense to fall into. Your QB is able to have time or create time, but isn’t getting it downfield. The quarterbacks in this example are Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, Taysom Hill, and Zach Wilson. Surprisingly, Patrick Mahomes falls into this one too.

For the purposes of this article, Tannehill is in the “Quick, Short Passes” quadrant. This plays into their high us of the screen game, but also the lackluster pass blocking. For what it is worth, Aaron Rodgers and Tannehill are right next to each other in this category, while someone like Tom Brady has a slightly higher depth of target, but is getting the ball out super quick.

What is also fascinating is that Tannehill has a higher depth of target, and gets the ball out quicker than the following quarterback in this category: Justin Herbert.

Speaking of “depth of target” statistics. One of the main complaints was his deep ball accuracy in 2021. While it was worse than his previous years as a Titans passer, it was near league average in almost all categories:

Target %On-Target %TD%INT%P. RatingBTT%TWP%
Tannehill11%40%7.3%3.6%87.227.3%7.3%
NFL Average12%42%9.4%6.0%92.728.6%8.9%
On passes 20+ yards

Obviously, this still is a much needed area of improvement necessary for Tannehill to rebound in 2022, he wasn’t as bad as everyone wants to think. With Brown and Jones both being routinely missing and the offensive line being way below average, this isn’t necessarily a surprise his numbers regressed, but I think this an easy rebound for Tannehill in 2022.

Adjusted Completion Percentage

Adjusted completion percentage accounts for some of the things that are out of the quarterback’s control. QBs are credited for on-target throws that are dropped, and then throwaways, batted passes, spikes, and passes where the quarterbacks are hit are excluded.

Tannehill ends up being in the top-10 in this category. Joe Burrow, Mahomes, Rodgers, Cousins, Garoppolo, and Herbert all edge him out. Tannehill’s accuracy was a saving grace for this team, because he ranks in the top-10 in all of PFFs accuracy metrics:

  • Adjusted Completion %: 7th
  • Accurate Pass Rate: 3rd
  • Catchable Inaccurate Pass Rate*: 4th
  • Uncatchable Pass Rate*: 9th
  • On-Target Pass Rate: 7th

*These metrics, higher = worse. So Tannehill was 4th and 9th best in those categories

I think this is a great sign that really shows that while Tannehill’s decision making, and deep ball certainly regressed, his accuracy stayed in near elite status. 63.7% of his passes ending up in the frame of the wide receiver. Which is the most accurate target area for a wide receiver. He ranked 4th in the NFL in that category.

His accuracy not regressing really improves the chances of a rebound campaign in 2022.

Passing When Clean and Pressured

This seems a little obvious and may not necessarily need a bunch of definition behind it, but I am if nothing but a teacher. PFF split this up again, you guess it, into four categories:

  • Better From Clean Pocket: High success rate of in a clean pocket, low success rate of when pressured (Jimmy Garoppolo)
  • Worst: Low rate of success in a clean pocket, low rate of success when pressured (Ben Roethlisberger)
  • Better Under Pressure: Low rate of success in a clean pocket, high rate of success when pressured (Jacoby Brissett)
  • Best: High rate of success in a clean pocket, high rate of success when pressured (Joe Burrow)

I bet no one will guess where Tannehill landed. Did you guess? Did you guess “Best”? Me neither. What a wild plan for him to land given the state of the offensive line, and how he looked when under duress. However, only Rodgers, Burrow, and Dak Prescott had better averages in this category.

When you look at each category individually, Tannehill was 6th best from a clean pocket and the 7th best when under pressure. However, comparing it to his previous seasons, and league average since 2013 as a Titans passer it looks like this:

201920202021Lg. Avg
When Clean122.6117.495.9103.7
Under Pressure86.372.169.165
Leave Average is 2013-2021

While there is cause for concern to see his stats regress, it seems it regressed with the rest of the league when you look at his ranking. Tannehill was pressured on 22.3% of his drop backs this season above the league average, but he himself was only responsible for seven total pressures.

Positive and Negative Grade Percentage

I am not a big believer in just the standard PFF grade bing thrown out as a stat itself. However, PFF does try to add context to their grades by using a ratio of positive to negative grades on all pass plays. So, for the record, take this category however you want to.

Tannehill ranks 9th among all quarterbacks in average PFF grade for the 2021 season with a grade of 83.5. He also ranked 9th in positive grade rate, and had the 2nd lowest negative grade rate. In fact her has the 2nd best Positive Grade % to Negative Grade % ratio in the NFL only behind Burrow.

He had four negative grades this season:

  • Week 10 versus the Saints: 58.4
  • Week 11 versus the Texans: 44.4
  • Week 12 versus the Patriots: 54.8
  • Week 17 versus the Dolphins: 56.5

I am not surprised by the low grades in the Texans and Patriots loss, but the low grades in the Saints and Dolphins victories is a bit weird. This is also why I hate even mentioning PFF grades. They rarely seem to make sense when you look at it from a big picture view, but this is a signature stat, and while I may not give it weight, you may.

The Final Ranking

While I did show you a lot of his ranks in this article there were some categories we did not touch on. Tannehill was ranked in 15 categories including the ones above. When you average out those rankings he ends up being roughly the 8th best quarterback in 2021 according to PFF.

While their writers may end up putting him outside the top-10 based on personal preference, the data shows that despite the injuries, regression, lack of chemistry, etc, etc, Tannehill still showed he was a top tier quarterback in most categories.

In fact, he only ranked outside the top-10 in just 3 of 15 categories. Not to mention he was still one of thee more efficient quarterbacks according to EPA, which is found on other sites.

Conclusion

I highly recommend grabbing a PFF subscription and reading more about Tannehill and the rest of the NFL quarterbacks in this QB Annual. However, I think the best way to sum up Tannehill’s 2021 campaign can be done by the quote that starts his part of the annual:

Tannehill is still fighting question marks about whether his resurgence in Tennessee is for real after a solid but unspectacular six years with the Dolphins. While his production trailed off this season, Tannehill posted the third-highest PFF grade of his career, further proving that he is for real and has taken a massive step forward since joining the Titans. Unfortunately, he dealt with a revolving door of receivers and tight ends, including injuries to both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Tannehill once again ranked as one of the league’s most accurate quarterbacks, especially up to 20 yards. However, his sack rate regressed, and he was much less effective throwing deep this season. Tannehil still needs to show that he can carry a team rather than faciliate in run-heavy attack, but he’s been excellent in his role with the Titans and had another strong season in 2021.

PFF QB Annual

Do you agree that Tannehill is still a top-10 quarterback going forward? Will he rebound? Leave a comment below

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