Another strong regular season ended in early postseason disappointment for the Tennessee Titans over the weekend. Led by Ryan Tannehill and the returning Derrick Henry, Tennessee fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-16. After back-to-back one and done appearances in the playoffs, many people are wondering if it’s time for the Titans to look to the future at quarterback.
Tannehill regressed as a passer this year; there’s no other way to say it. During the 2020 season, he threw 33 TDs and only 7 INTs. This year he fell back into his usual range of 21 TDs but racked up the INTs with 14. This was Tannehill’s first year throwing double-digit INTs since 2016 in Miami. The crazy part is that there was one extra regular-season game, and he attempted 50 more throws than last year. Even with the extra game, Tannehill still passed for fewer yards and fewer TDs this season.
Part of that had to be Henry missing the entire second half of the season. But ultimately, it just feels like Tannehill may have been exposed this year and came crashing back down to earth. Although Tannehill wasn’t great in the first eight games when Henry was playing. Over those first eight games, Ryan was 10 TDs to 7 INTs. If you want to call that above-average, okay, but that’s what Tannehill is. All he did was tease Titans fans last year only to fall back to the pack this season.
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As the number one seed in the AFC against the Bengals, Tennessee was expected to come out and handle business. Well, by anyone outside of Cincy, that is. The Bengals picked Tannehill off three times Saturday. Henry didn’t accomplish much more either, rushing for 62 yards on 20 carries. But Henry was returning from a foot injury while Tannehill had played mediocre ball all year. If Henry isn’t coming off the injury, we might be talking about a different story, but this game and this season overall showed Tannehill to be a game manager.
Tannehill’s equivalent in the NFC might be Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, their numbers are pretty close for the season. Jimmy threw 20 TDs to 12 INTs and passed for 3,810 yards, completing over 68 percent of his passes. The TD/INT ratio is almost the same, while Tannehill passed for 3,734 yards and completed 67 percent of his attempts. Garoppolo did play in two fewer games, but overall, their stats are in the same ballpark. The difference is Jimmy G seems to be able to hurdle past his shortcomings in big games and do just enough to put his team in a position to win.
I don’t think anyone would be shocked if Tennessee decided to move on from Tannehill. The thing about that is they need to have a replacement in mind that’s a better option than Tannehill. I’m not sure if that QB will be available and want to sign with the Titans. These Titans are built and made to win now, so drafting a rookie QB won’t help them next season. Tennessee could call Seattle about Russell Wilson, but I don’t see that happening. By all indications, Willson wants to hit a big market if he leaves Seattle. Jimmy G might be available in the offseason, but that almost puts you in the same boat as you were with Tannehill. After the divisional collapse of the Packers, Aaron Rodgers could be on the open market. Get Rodgers down to Tennessee with a fully recovered Henry, and you might have something uniquely scary in that tandem.
Only time will tell for the Titans, but I know it’s high time they began looking to the future at the QB position. Even if they bring Tannehill back for one more trip around the sun, they need to get that future QB in place. I can’t see the Titans sticking with him much longer. Maybe they’ll stumble upon a Wilson-type gem later in the draft. Whatever decision they make needs to be about the future and preparing for it.