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nice piece on tannehill

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from today's wall street journal.  i guess you can call it some add on gase bashing but it also shows that there are competent qb's not always found in the draft.   i never thought much of this guy as a doltfin.  most of that was because of wearing the wrong uniform but everyone should give him a ton of credit for the job he's doing.  and this in spite of the tremendous run game.  his system clearly help but there are also some unique talents he has to enhance the run game.


The Bargain Bin Quarterback Who Became an NFL Star

After seven disappointing seasons in Miami, Ryan Tannehill has led the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs for the second consecutive season and become one of the NFL’s most efficient play

Updated Jan. 5, 2021 10:00 am 

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill dropped back with 18 seconds left and his team tied 38-38 against the Houston Texans on Sunday evening. With the AFC South on the line in a game seemingly headed to overtime, Tannehill pulled off what nobody could’ve imagined seconds earlier. He floated the ball perfectly into the outstretched arms of wide receiver A.J. Brown—a 52-yard completion that set up the game-winning field goal.  

It was brilliant. It came out of nowhere. It came surprisingly late. Tannehill’s improbable pass was just like Tannehill’s improbable career. 

Tannehill was a high school quarterback who was converted into a college wide receiver and then a quarterback again. He spent seven disappointing years with the Miami Dolphins, who paid some of his contract just to trade him away. He was a backup for the Titans, who traded practically nothing to acquire him. 

That explains why nobody expected this quarterback in his 30s to transform into one of the best football players in the NFL. 

For the second straight season, Tannehill has led the Titans to the playoffs. A year ago, he ended Tom Brady’s career in New England, and then in the divisional round upset Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens—the same team Tennessee will face this weekend. 

It’s been easy to overlook Tannehill’s success. He plays with running back Derrick Henry, who just became the eighth player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in the same season. He won under 50% of his games with the Dolphins. He plays in one of the NFL’s smaller markets. 

But by any traditional or advanced measure, this quarterback who spent years being mediocre has become one of the best and most efficient players at the most important position in his sport. In 2019, he led the NFL in passer rating and yards per pass attempt. Over the past two seasons, only one quarterback has produced more expected points added per play, according to nflfastR. The lone quarterback ahead of him in that metric is reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. 

“The skill level has always been there,” said Mike Sherman, his coach at Texas A&M and later his offensive coordinator with the Dolphins. “It’s just the people around him are a little bit different.”


It has been a stunning star turn because there’s nothing more important for NFL teams than identifying the best quarterbacks. The ones capable of such phenomenal play aren’t usually discovered after they are discounted and discarded. Late bloomers are rare. 

Tannehill’s unusual breakout in 2019, which was solidified in 2020, came after an unusual odyssey. It helps reveal why he may have found his footing far later in his career than Jackson, Mahomes, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or pretty much every other top quarterback in the NFL because he left a trail of clues that indicated there was a fountain of untapped potential. 

Before Tannehill became an NFL prospect at Texas A&M, he was fast enough and far enough back on the team’s depth chart that the team’s coach told him to try some snaps at wide receiver in 2008. “I ended up having some success that day,” Tannehill later said at the NFL combine. “About two days later, I was in the starting rotation at receiver.” 

He led the team in receiving yards that year, and it wasn’t until midway through the 2010 season that he actually became the team’s quarterback. He looked pretty good at that, too. After the next year, the Miami Dolphins made him the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NFL draft even though he had just barely over a year of experience playing quarterback in college.  

Tannehill’s time in Miami produced mixed results at best. He had double-digit interceptions each of his first five seasons. He was sacked frequently. He missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury. His 2018 season was derailed by another injury.

“In Miami, he was kind of just in survival mode,” said Sherman, the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013. “He struggled, we struggled.” 

After that, the Dolphins traded him to the Titans for picks in the fourth and seventh rounds of the draft. For good measure, the Dolphins threw in a sixth rounder and paid some of Tannehill’s contract. 

Yet there were still indications he had what it took to be a highly successful quarterback in the modern NFL. He had the athleticism to thrive as a college wide receiver. He had the throwing ability to be worthy of a top draft pick. He went 42-46 during his time in Miami despite playing many of those years with a much-maligned coaching staff—his coach during his later years was Adam Gase, who was fired Sunday as coach of the New York Jets. 

Not even the Titans expected much, though. He was there to back up Marcus Mariota, the quarterback they had once taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft. Then he was named the starter after the team began the season 2-4 in 2019. They finished the year 9-7 and in the playoffs behind his phenomenal performance. He led the league with a 117.5 passer rating and 9.6 yards per attempt. He led them to playoff wins over the Patriots and Ravens. He made the Pro Bowl, making him the third oldest quarterback in the prior two decades to be named to his first Pro Bowl, according to Stats, LLC.

For anyone who doubted whether Tannehill’s breakout performance as a 31-year-old was legitimate, he followed that up with his play in 2020. He continued to rate as one of the game’s most efficient passers while leading them to an 11-5 record—Tennessee’s best mark in over a decade. 

The Titans were also the perfect match to bring out Tannehill’s skill-set. Their offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, is one of the game’s most creative play-callers, capable of exploiting Tannehill’s athleticism. Henry, the NFL’s most fearsome running back, buoys his uncanny play-action passing—Tannehill entered the final week of 2020 leading the league in passing yards on play-action plays. 

Sunday’s game was the ultimate display of all of this. While Henry ran for 250 yards and two touchdowns, Tannehill’s speed led him to run for two scores of his own. He threw for another score. He dropped the ball in A.J. Brown’s arms to lead to the game-winning score. 

The win solidified the Titans’ division crown. It also affirmed how they gave up almost nothing for a star quarterback. 

Write to Andrew Beaton at andrew.beaton@wsj.com

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