Ryan Tannehill couldn’t have seen this coming, not after the way his career in Miami came to an end.
He was just shipped out from the beautiful and lively city of Miami, to a rising franchise that was settled in the respective rising city of Nashville. He wasn’t going to start, he wasn’t going to be the guy, he was simply going to secure a measly backup role with the initial hope of him providing some much needed competition for then franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Weeks passed during the 2019 season, with Tannehill watching on the sidelines as the Titans’ offense continued to sputter week after week. Then, during a mid season contest against the Los Angeles Chargers, Tannehill got the chance he’d been waiting for ever since he was knocked down from his tower of glory and riches.
As you should know, he replaced Mariota as the starting quarterback for that rather unimportant late afternoon game against the then Philip Rivers led Chargers. Not only did Tannehill take the opportunity presented to him and completely reign it in by the horns, he dominated it, and proceeded to let his play tell the world the latest message he had for it.
He’s not done yet.
Fast forward to a late May day in the year of 2021, and it’s pretty clear that Tannehill’s message wasn’t one of falsehood, but one of pure, hard, concrete truth.
Tannehill has put up some very impressive numbers over the last two seasons of his career resurgence. He’s thrown for 6,561 yards, 55 touchdowns, and has maintained an average quarterback rating of 112.
Tannehill has also been uber accurate during his time as a Titans, routinely fitting throws into very tight windows, and lobbing his heralded deep throws into crystal perfect pockets for his receivers down the field. His mobility has been a major component of the Titans’ play action game, specifically on rollouts and boot plays where he can fully utilize his mobility, but also the precise accuracy he has when throwing on the run.
He’s developed a dangerous partnership with star running back Derrick Henry, and young star wide receiver A.J. Brown to create a collective offensive juggernaut that the Titans franchise has never seen before. He’s also gained the admiration and praise from fans across the city, many of whom fight with all their might against the notion that Tannehill is strictly a benefactor of Henry’s otherworldly success over the course of the past few seasons.
To put it shortly, Tannehill has put it all together on the field by playing the best football of his career, and in addition, he’s gained the support of a city that’s longed for dominant quarterback play ever since the days of Steve McNair.
However, even with the city behind his back and his status as an integral part of the offense still intact, the gloomy shadow of pressure has begun to creep ever so carefully towards Tannehill’s shoulders. Not only because of the rising expectations that come with a top quarterback on a contending football team, but his surroundings undergoing a bit of a change as well.
During the first two or so seasons of Tannehill’s rise to local stardom as a Titan, he’s been blessed with the embarrassment of riches that have been by his side. Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Adam Humphries, and Arthur Smith were all important pieces for Tannehill’s puzzle to success during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
But a massive tide of change has crashed onto Tannehill’s personal ocean front shore, and that specific tide has many wondering what Tannehill can do with so much change hitting him so suddenly.
All four of the names I just mentioned?
They’re all gone from the Titans’ roster and coaching staff. Either by the way of free agency or from the annual league wide head coaching poaching period. Corey Davis is now a New York Jet, Jonnu Smith is now a New England Patriot, Arthur Smith has been tasked with steering the Atlanta Falcons back towards the path of success, and Adam Humphries has found a new home in Washington after a couple of seasons full of injuries in Tennessee.
When you combine the mass exodus of talent and coaching innovation with the lack of impact moves made over the off-season to replace those two things, you can sense extra load of pressure slowly making its way towards Tannehill.
It has to in all honesty.
Raise your hands if you think the off-season additions at receiver will truly help round out and reverse the already poor wide receiver depth that currently exists. Raise your hand if you think a tight end duo of Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim can make up for the lost production and skill of Jonnu Smith. Raise your hand if your hand if you’re 100% confident that new offensive coordinator Todd Downing can erase his coordinating demons of the past, and keep this offense humming in 2021.
You can’t…can you?
The sole idea of uncertainty and talent deprivation prevents you from doing so, and that’s the exact reason why more of a responsibility will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Titans’ general under center. It’s like an army losing a couple of generals or important leaders in the midst of a heated battle
Once that occurs, you look towards the men and women you have left, and place more responsibility in their laps when they’re already dealing with so much. Then you hopelessly watch on as they try to fill the shoes left behind by their superiors.
You might look towards other members of the offense and say those players can do more. You’d be right of course, since Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown are both the two key focal points of this Titans offense, and will continue to be so until they can’t any longer.
But as things start with Henry and Brown offensively, they end with Tannehill’s ability to corral his surroundings, and make the big plays when they’re called upon. You can fill your offense with all the talent in the world, but as we all know, it’ll all be for naught if your quarterback can’t make things happen on their own.
With a contention window still as wide open as it can be, multiple key players will be tasked with stepping up their personal games all to make this team reach the heights its setting out to strive for. Tannehill will most likely be one of them, and with that comes the ever growing pressure that I’m sure every player would rather avoid during the course of their careers.