Some might find it difficult to call Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 season a comeback.
After all, the Tennessee Titans quarterback did not return to a previous level of performance. In his eighth NFL season, he was better than ever.
Enough of the Associated Press’ 50 voters saw it that way, though – just enough, in fact – for Tannehill to be named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. He was announced as the winner during Saturday’s NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LIV.
Tannehill earned 16 votes from the panel, one more than the runner-up, San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Pro Football Writers Association of America saw it the same way when that body announced its 2019 award winners last month.
“It’s cool to be honored in such a way,” Tannehill said prior to the AFC Championship. “It just makes me thankful for the guys I’ve got to play with this year, and how this team has responded to everything we’ve been through, just continued to battle and find a way to win. … I’m proud of our guys. I think the award is a reflection of the kind of guys that we have on this team.”
The Titans acquired Tannehill last March in a trade with Miami, where he had started all 88 games he played since being drafted eighth overall in 2012.
Tennessee wanted him to be Marcus Mariota’s backup, which he was. Six games into the season, however, the Titans turned to Tannehill, who led their charge to the playoffs. They went 7-3 in the regular season with him as the starter and notched a pair of road victories in the postseason (the first two playoff games of Tannehill’s career).
Tannehill led the NFL in passer rating (117.5), yards per attempt (9.6) and yards per completion (13.6) and set a career-high for completion percentage (70.3). He also set a career-high for touchdown percentage (7.7).
Following the season-ending loss to Kansas City, he was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He replaced Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“I think if you look statistically, obviously it’s better, but I don’t feel like I’ve changed a whole lot,” Tannehill said. “Just how I approach the game, how I play the game, I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot. But yeah, it’s definitely an honor.”