Even K.C.'s Coach Considers Tannehill's Turnaround A Happy Tale
NASHVILLE – Andy Reid considers Ryan Tannehill’s story a page-turner, albeit one that he hopes has a sudden, unhappy ending this week.
The Chiefs coach will do his best to make sure that Sunday’s AFC Championship is the final chapter in Tannehill’s tale of redemption that has been written over the final 10 games of the regular season and the first two weeks of the playoffs. A backup at the start of the season after being traded by Miami, Tannehill became the Titans’ starting quarterback in Week 7 and since then Tennessee has gone 9-3 with a pair of postseason upsets.
“The quarterback’s playing well,” Reid said Monday. “You always like those stories when a guy didn’t have as much success as he probably would have liked at one place but comes here and has got the guys in the championship game.”
It is not a new story. And like any good one, it has been repeated over the years.
Whereas championship teams are most often associated with quarterbacks drafted and developed by a team such as Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh), Joe Montana (San Francisco), Troy Aikman (Dallas) and Tom Brady (New England), there occasionally are those who show up out of in the right place at the right time and end up on top.
Trent Dilfer was the sixth overall pick by Tampa Bay in 1994 and spent six unremarkable years with Buccaneers. In 200, he signed with Baltimore, became the starter halfway through the season and led the Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV. They won their final 11 games that season.
Jim Plunkett was the first overall pick by New England in 1971. He spent five years with the Patriots and two with San Francisco before he ended up in Oakland. After a season-plus as a backup with the Raiders he became the starter in Week 6 of 1980 and went 13-2 capped by a victory in Super Bowl XV. Three years later he led that franchise to another championship.
Doug Williams was a part of three playoff teams in five seasons with Tampa Bay, which took him 17 overall in 1978. In 1987, his second year with Washington, he was 0-2 as a starter during the regular season but went 3-0 in the playoffs, including a triumph in Super Bowl XXIII.
With two more wins, Tannehill, chosen eighth overall by Miami in 2012, can put his name alongside theirs in the pantheon of championship signal-callers. In seven seasons with the Dolphins, he was a part of one playoff team but never appeared in a postseason contest.
“That’s obviously the goal [to win a championship], but as you go throughout the week, you’re not thinking past – I don’t at least – what’s in front of me, doing everything I can to come away with a win.” Tannehill said. “… It’s going to be a tall challenge for us, but I like our team, and I like our chances.”
While he still needs two wins to add a title to his personal biography, Tannehill already has joined Bradshaw in one regard.
They are the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to win consecutive playoff games with fewer than 100 passing yards in each. With Tennessee’s offense leaning heavily on the run game and Derrick Henry, Tannehill threw for 72 yards (on eight completions) at New England and 88 yards (on seven completions) at Baltimore.
Bradshaw, it should be noted, did so in the AFC Championship (95 yards) and Super Bowl (96 yards) following the 1973 regular season.
“I can’t say I’ve seen it before, but that’s kind of the way the games have played out,” Tannehill said. “Not dropping back much, not throwing the ball much, but we’re moving the ball up front on the ground. [Henry] is doing a great job making big plays. The offensive line is doing a great job moving around on the line of scrimmage, so at this point in the season, it’s about doing whatever it takes to win.
“Whatever it takes to win, that’s what we’re going to do.”