Tannehill

Say what you want about Ryan Tannehill’s up-and-down 2021 season, but it’s hard to argue the Tennessee Titans would be where they currently are without him.

Tannehill was one of just three Titans’ offensive starters to play in all 17 games this season — center Ben Jones and right tackle David Quessenberry were the others — and he tied for the fourth-most fourth-quarter comebacks (3) and fifth-most game-winning drives (4) in the NFL.

However, the Titans' impressive 12-5 season wasn't without its hiccups from their starting signal caller.

Tannehill struggled through the first 11 games of the year with Tennessee often winning in spite of multiple turnovers from its starting QB. The beating Tannehill took along the way didn’t help either.

Thirty-one of his 47 sacks and 12 of his 14 interceptions came during that stretch, and Tannehill was throwing to a glorified practice squad receiver group for much of it.

But over his final six games, Tannehill righted the ship. He threw for eight touchdowns and just two interceptions, was sacked just 16 times, had a passer rating of 100 or better three times, and he had four of his five best completion percentage marks.

So, what changed?

If you ask Tannehill himself, nothing.

“Contrary to popular belief, I never felt like I lost [my mojo],” he said. “I felt good all season and I think we have done some good things here the last few weeks to catch our stride a little bit. Excited about the momentum we have gained over the last few weeks and hopefully we can build on it as we move forward.”

On paper, Tannehill’s production appeared to take a dip under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing. The 33-year-old QB had 85 fewer passing yards, 12 fewer TD passes, seven more interceptions, and he took 23 more sacks compared to the year before.

He also averaged almost a full yard per pass less than in 2020, and he had his worst passer rating (89.6) since 2015.

But given the constant duress Tannehill was under — he was the fifth-most hit QB (64), the seventh-most blitzed QB (166), the 10th-most pressured QB (142) and had the fifth-least amount of time in the pocket (2.3 seconds) in the NFL in 2021 — it’s almost astounding that he led the Titans to 12 wins and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Despite his deficiencies in some areas, Tannehill ranked among the league’s best in several others. One of the more efficient signal callers around, Tannehill ranked 10th in completion percentage (67.1), and he was one of just four quarterbacks with 16 or more starts to have less than 10 passes thrown away. 

He also ranked seventh in the NFL with an on-target throw percentage of 78.9, and he had the fifth-most pass yards on play action (1,114). And when it mattered most, Tannehill showed up, as was evidenced by his 73.4 completion percentage and seven-touchdowns-to-zero-interceptions performance over Tennessee’s final three games.

“I work really hard to be steady,” Tannehill added. “Whether things are going up or in a little bit of a lull, just trying to be constant and be steady. … Whatever outside noise is going on, whatever else has happened the week before or couple weeks before, I approach each new week with the opportunity that it is. It is an opportunity within itself to go lead my team and get a win.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_