For weeks now, we’ve been pointing out the obvious deficiencies and flaws that exist within the current Titans offense. From inconsistency, to ineffectiveness when it comes to running the football. Even the blatant lack of success in the play calling aspect has been publicly shamed and rightfully so.
But the one flaw that’s been flying under the radar, at least not until today, is one that falls squarely on the shoulders of the Titans’ $118M franchise signal caller.
It’s easy to divert blame on the play of the most important player offensively — if you disagree, just take a look back at some of the things that were said about the man in the spotlight even during his white hot play last season — but what we’ve seen out of Ryan Tannehill throughout this season is deserving of some blame for this unit’s recent poor play.
Now you might’ve read that sentence and gone up in arms.
Yes yes, Tannehill’s heroics in week two against the Seattle Seahawks and week eight against the Indianapolis Colts certainly should exclude him from any sort of significant blame from the masses. But disguised within his heroics, have been backbreaking turnovers that have killed this team for the past month and a half.
From his poor throws that led to turnovers against the Bills, Colts, Rams, and Saints (didn’t count because of a very bad roughing the passer penalty), it’s clear this recent stretch of games has somehow thrown Tannehill for a bit of a loop.
Today’s game against the Houston Texans was another example of that.
Tannehill threw four interceptions today, increasing his total on the year to 12, five more than his total for the entirety of the 2020 season. The self made turnovers by Tannehill only further pushed the narrative surrounding him and his sudden regression this season, while also decreasing the trust outside eyes have in him to deliver when it matters most.
“It all falls squarely upon me.” Tannehill said, “I have to be better.”
What makes this recent trend of turnover prone play so confusing is that Tannehill hasn’t shown that sort of tendency since he arrived in Tennessee, at least not consistently. He’s been careful with the ball for the most part, avoiding high danger throws and seemingly doing the things he’s been asked to do within the realm of his skill set.
He hasn’t done too much, nor has he done too little, it’s just what you want from a quarterback that hasn’t really shown an ability to take over games on a consistent basis and one that’s shown the capability to thrive in low stress situations scheme wise.
But when the going gets a little tough, mainly in terms of multiple factors either failing to lean the Titans’ way or simply flat out not cooperating, Tannehill has found himself on the wrong end of the turnover battle more times than not. Leaky pass protection, drops, uncomfortable situations on second and third down, timing with the shuffling door of receivers, these are just a few instances where Tannehill just hasn’t been able to keep his composure and avoid the one turnover that makes you raise your eyebrow in confusion.
Luckily for Tannehill, he’s proven in the past that he can move on quickly from these mistake heavy games, and return to the form that made the Titans put their faith and trust in him. But that’s all been done with Derrick Henry on the field, so it’s unclear how Tannehill will respond and if he’ll shy away from the performances that have landed him in hot media water over the last four or so games.
At this point, the Titans will have to rely on two things that could curb Tannehill’s turnover issues.
First, they simply have to get healthy at receiver. A.J. Brown left today’s game with hand and chest injuries that could knock him out of action next week against the New England Patriots. Combine that with Julio Jones’ current injured reserve stint, Marcus Johnson leaving today’s game with a hamstring injury, and suddenly the Titans are forced to play with depth receivers as the top options in the passing game.
Once the bye week hits, the receiver group *should* receive positive news on the injury front. But with how things have gone injury wise for the Titans this year, it’d be best to hold your breath on that.
The second thing is to hope for an improved level of efficiency in both pass protection and play calling once the bye week ends. The bye week is generally a time for coaches to look over what they’ve done until that point in time, and see if any changes are needed for the stretch run.
If some of the Titans’ glaring issues can be fixed, including some that have contributed to Tannehill’s turnover problem, then all hope won’t be lost.
If Tannehill’s turnover tendencies continue, then this team can forget about capitalizing on their suddenly strong Super Bowl chances. They’d likely flame out and their storybook 2021 season would come to an abrupt halt, something that’d sting a little bit more considering the adversity they have and will continue to go through for the remainder of the season.