This offseason has seen the ‘QB Carousel’ been turning more at an active pace than previous years. One such name upon the carousel is former Miami Dolphins and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Before this past season, Tannehill has always belonged to the ‘not quite there club’, a group of quarterbacks who certainly have the potential to make the transition to franchise QB but almost never do. Often to the pain and frustration of that franchise’s fans.
However, Tannehill made the leap in 2019, dethroning fellow ‘almost there’ QB Marcus Mariota as the starter of the Tennessee Titans. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel made the decision to bench Mariota halfway through a Week Six game against Denver.
Following that decision, the Titans went 7-3 with Tannehill as the starter. At last, Tannehill had broken through that glass ceiling and put together all the skills he had to become a refined and accurate passer as well as a true leader of men. Tannehill finished the regular season with a 70.3% completion percentage, 2742 yards, 22 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. Impressive passing numbers for a run-first offence.
The Titans season came to an end in the Conference Championship game away to Kansas City. Although the season was a great success, the toothless performance the Titans displayed in the second-half of that Championship game has left a few question marks around the status of the quarterback position.
While Tennessee might move on from Tannehill, there’s certainly a long list of franchises that would be after a solid quarterback to take the reigns in 2020. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
For the first time in two decades, the New England Patriots have a question mark at QB. With Tom Brady’s future uncertain, Belichick will be keen to secure the most important position in sports.
If Brady does leave, the next man up at QB for the Patriots would be Jarrett Stidham. Stidham was drafted in the 4th round in 2019 and failed to impress when given the chance. After the Pats were up big at home to the Jets in Week Three, Belichick trotted out Stidham who immediately threw a pick 6 and was then benched… again.
While Tannehill doesn’t seem like the prototypical New England QB, the former Dolphin did play a solid, measured game in the Wildcard Round against Belichick and co. in Foxborough. If it’s one thing Belichick likes its a QB who can work within a system and execute a gameplan.
It would not surprise me if a veteran like Belichick would rather have a seasoned pro starting at QB in Week One rather than Stidham or a rookie.
With it confirmed that Chargers legend Phillip Rivers will not return to helm the quarterback position for the Chargers in 2020, the Los Angeles based middling franchise find themselves in a similar situation to New England… just without the six Lombardis.
Rivers sunk a few games for the Chargers in 2019 with his erratic quarterback play. Rivers finished this season ranked third in interceptions thrown with 20. One fewer than number two ranked Baker Mayfield and ten fewer than Jameis Winston.
Tannehill’s security with the ball will suit the Chargers comfortably as they aim to limit turnovers, going with a more run-heavy offence with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Tannehill, of course, has experience managing a run-based offence this past season with the Titans.
We could see a repeat of the 2019 Titans if Tannehill ends up in Chicago. Bears GM Ryan Pace, eager to not let Mitch Trubisky fulfil his destiny as a bust for fear of losing his job, will sign Tannehill to bring in a little competition and light a fire underneath Trubisky.
The danger with that, of course, is that after showing starter level play in 2019, it is doubtful that Tannehill will take being a number 2 again. On top of this, if Trubisky does struggle in 2020, which he most likely will, then Bears fans will be going feral until Tannehill is named the starter in Week Four.
On the field, Tannehill matches all the traits of Trubisky; good arm, ability to scramble and make plays with his legs out of the pocket, just without the turnovers, inerrant throws and just all-around bad quarterback play.
Matt Nagy was a double doink away from the NFC Championship Game with Mitch Trubissy, one wonders what the Bears could achieve with a competent quarterback.
New owners do dumb stuff.
While Panthers owner David Tepper isn’t exactly new, he bought the team before the 2018 season, he has made it pretty clear that his reign as the owner is officially starting now. With the dismissal of Ron Rivera and the future of NFL superstar Cam Newton in a state of flux, the landscape is set for Tepper to make his mark on the organisation.
What better way to do it than with a change at football’s most important position?
Tannehill does possess a similar skillset to Newton. He’s incredibly athletic, able to move around and be effective in the run game and has a strong arm. But Tannehill doesn’t possess the same kind of explosiveness and nuanced quarterbacking that has made Newton a top ten QB in the league this past decade.
If the Chargers draft Justin Herbert at #7 before the Panthers get a chance to at #8, there’s a good chance that Tannehill is in the building, if not starting by Week One of the 2020 regular season.
Brissett is a capable quarterback but had a poor second half of the season which saw the Colts take a nosedive from play-off hopefuls to top ten pick territory.
Phillip Rivers is a name that has been connected to the Colts a lot these past few weeks, and while Rivers has shown he can be a franchise guy, it’s pretty clear that he’s on his way out. This combined with how astute and smart a GM Chris Ballard is, I just don’t see the Colts pitching themselves next to a guy who is hardly better than Brissett and is a decade older.
This is where Tannehill presents a good alternative. Brissett, Luck and Tannehill all have similar skillsets and you have the improved quarterback play with Tannehill that you miss with Brissett, but without the age of Rivers.
Don’t be surprised if Ballard makes a sensible choice and we see Ryan Tannehill under-centre for the Indianapolis Colts in Week One.