The Tennessee Titans took a flyer on Ryan Tannehill last season. Today, they made him the face of the franchise.
The former first-round pick who never quite lived up to expectations in Miami just became one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. Tennessee’s significant investment in the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year includes a $20 million signing bonus and $91 million guaranteed.
That’s an awful lot of money for a quarterback who has a far smaller sample size of success and a longer track record of average play. And for the Titans, Tannehill’s massive contract will ultimately be a major mistake.
Ryan Tannehill never became franchise quarterback in Miami
The Dolphins drafted Tannehill with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. A former wide receiver, Tannehill possessed an intriguing skill set but was far from a finished product. He started all 16 games in each of his first four seasons with the Dolphins, but struggled to put together consistent play.
After a disappointing rookie season in which he posted a 76.1 quarterback rating, Tannehill averaged 25 passing touchdowns over the next three seasons but never managed a winning record. In fact, even after accounting for his breakout year in Tennessee, Tannehill holds a career record of 49-49.
A torn ACL wiped out the veteran’s 2017 season. He returned in 2018 and threw for just 1,979 yards in 11 starts. Seven years and just 88 games later, the Dolphins traded Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick to the Titans for a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-rounder.
Ryan Tannehill capitalized on starting opportunity with Titans
With Marcus Mariota already at the helm, the Titans didn’t need Tannehill to start. But with Mariota failing to develop into a star, his hold on the starting job loosened. Before the midway point of the season, Tannehill took over the reigns and never looked back.
In 10 regular-season starts, the former draft disappointment turned into one of the league’s most adept playmakers. Backed by the league’s leading rusher, the Titans put up 35 points in a statement win over the Chiefs in Week 10. Tannehill’s combination of mobility and accuracy helped the Titans secure a playoff berth.
In 12 games (10 starts), he set career-highs in completion percentage (70.3) and quarterback rating (117.5) and also led the NFL in yards per attempt (10.2). He also posted a stellar 22:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and scored four rushing touchdowns. However, the Titans did come up short in their Super Bowl quest and lost to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
Titans are taking a massive risk in committing to Ryan Tannehill
By signing Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million deal on Monday, the Titans showed they’re all-in on the 31-year-old. But was that the right move?
Ultimately, Tannehill’s 10-game run as a starter in the regular season showed he does have the ability to be a winning quarterback. However, there were a number of factors working in his favor. First, Derrick Henry alleviated a lot of pressure and demanded significant attention from defenses. The Titans also have a good cast of young weapons, including young stud receiver A.J. Brown. A solid offensive line anchored by former first-round tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin also helped.
Take away last year’s impressive run and Tannehill’s career numbers are far less shiny. In six years as the Dolphins’ starter (he missed the 2017 season), Tannehill averaged 3,405 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and an 87.0 quarterback rating. He also missed 24 games due to injuries in seven years in Miami.
Tannehill’s career prior to his arrival in Tennessee showed that he’s an average starter at best. Unfortunately for Titans fans, they’re paying him like he’s one of the best. The Tannehill contract was a massive overpay and could hamstring the Titans for the next few years. If his durability issues pop up again or he even regresses to his own averages, the Titans will regret their $118 million investment in a quarterback with a .500 career record.