NASHVILLE — When the Tennessee Titans came 35 minutes from an appearance in Super Bowl LIV, a wildly effective offense got them there. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s insertion into the line-up saved their 2019 season.
Tennessee’s quarterback has been on a tear since then and has his team at 10-4. Still, heading into a 2020 Primetime Showdown at Lambeau Field, the NFL still largely views him as Derrick Henry’s sidekick.
Tannehill’s cold-blooded efficiency since taking over as the Titans starter solidifies him as one of the league’s elite. Per the team’s PR, he needs on six more passing touchdowns to eclipse George Blanda’s franchise single-season record of 36 in 1961. Tannehill already holds the title for the most consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 100.0. The latest outing saw him notch five total touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing) with no turnovers en route to a 46-25 romp of the Detroit Lions (5-9).
Still, no respect.
Being one of the NFL’s best at a position can go easily unnoticed, apparently.
Two players from Tennessee (Henry and A.J. Brown) were elected to the 2021 Pro Bowl. The game itself will not be played this year due to the global pandemic but there are always incentives attached to it in NFL contracts. Personal accolades are always nice, too. Tannehill, though, ranked as this year’s most egregious snub.
Patrick Mahomes’ selection makes the most sense and Josh Allen’s emergence could not be ignored. But, Deshaun Watson over Tannehill reminded us all of one thing that gets annually forgotten.
There are few greater shams in professional sports than how one gets sent to the Pro Bowl.
“I was frustrated Monday night,” Tannehill said Wednesday. “I’m biased. I thought it should’ve happened, but it didn’t. I’m not going to waste time and energy on what’s in the past, just trying to get ready for the Packers.”
Drink if you are tired of hearing about Tennessee as a small market team.
Unfortunately for all parties involved, it’s still true.
Tannehill ranks first in Quarterback Rating (113.3) and yards per attempt (8.69) in the last two seasons, per CBS Sports. His 69.3 completion percentage in that same span puts him in fifth place, he is sixth in wins (18) and seventh in touchdown passes (53). The Titans offense with Tannehill under center has scored the most points in football this season (436) and is tied for first with the 13-1 Kansas City Chiefs at 31.1 points per game.
Nationally, people think all he does is hand off to Henry.
“That perception is definitely out there,” said Tannehill. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I can’t control that. I’ve just got to go out there and do the best I can do each and every week and the rest takes care of itself.”
Stay In Your Lane
Tennessee’s head coach could care less about numbers or nominations.
“I think that Ryan (Tannehill) is comfortable in who he is and not trying to be somebody else,” Mike Vrabel said Wednesday. “He has tried to embrace what we want to do here, been accurate with the football. He’s been decisive. He hasn’t been reckless with the football for his own personal benefit. Toughness that we’ve talked about. You appreciate that. You have to have faith in the quarterback to go out there and take care of the football. It’s been a huge reason that we’ve been able to win the games that we’ve won, is our ability to take care of the football but also make plays in doing so.”
That comfort level has produced 31 passing touchdowns, four more on the ground, 3,655 total yards, 8.1 yards per attempt and a completion percentage of 66.5. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will be a head coach in the league next year, wide receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown could both finish with over 1,000 yards receiving and a legitimate passing game has freed up Henry to likely defend his title as the NFL’s rushing champion.
None of it happens without Tannehill.
In the case of silliness like the Pro Bowl, that perception creates reality. It matters not for the Titans’ offense.
Featured Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.