Tannehill Starting Job Locked Up For 'This Week'

David Boclair

NASHVILLE – There is no question the Tennessee Titans offense has been better since Ryan Tannehill became the starting quarterback.

Better than it was the first six weeks of the season when Marcus Mariota had the job. Better than it was a lot of other years. Better – maybe – than anyone imagined it would be under first-year coordinator Arthur Smith.

Even so, coach Mike Vrabel declined Monday to answer whether Tannehill has been good enough that he now figures into the Titans’ long-term plans.

“I think we’re always talking about personnel and rosters,” Vrabel said. “And I think what Ryan’s done has been fantastic. We’re going to focus on this week. We’ll focus on decisions on the roster in the offseason.

“Ryan’s going to be our quarterback this week, and [we will] just continue to improve and try to help him prepare and perform.”

Tannehill, a nine-year veteran, is not under contract beyond this season, which means he is set to become a free agent on March 18, 2020. Until then, franchise officials have an exclusive period during which they can sign him to a new contract, place the franchise tag on him or decide that they want to go in a different direction.

The same is true of Mariota, who started 61 games over four-plus seasons before the Titans turned to Tannehill in Week 7. What has happened since seemingly has sealed Mariota’s fate – he will be with a different franchise next season.

At this point, the decision with Tannehill seems to be which of the first two options the Titans ultimately employ because it is difficult to find a reason this team would (or should) let him go.

With him at quarterback, Tennessee has gone 6-1, has averaged 31.4 points per game and has climbed into the NFL’s top 10 in scoring offense (10, 24.5 points per game) and yards per play (T-7, 5.9).

Sunday’s 42-21 victory at Oakland was the fourth straight game with 30 or more points, the franchise’s longest streak since 2003. It was the third this season with 42 or more points (once was with Mariota at quarterback), something that last happened in 1962. It was the second time in three weeks the Titans scored six touchdowns in a game, which matched the most they have scored in any contest of the Titans era (1999-present).

The offense racked up 552 yards against the Raiders, which ranks in the top five performances by any NFL team this season and was the sixth highest total in franchise history. That unit also averaged 9.36 yards on its 59 plays, the highest single-game average in franchise history and the best by any NFL team in 2019.

Tannehill currently leads the NFL in passer rating (118.5) and yards per attempt (9.8) and has thrown three times as many touchdown passes (15) as he has interceptions (five).

“I think that everybody is trying to do their job and finish,” Vrabel said. “I think that our ability to get people involved throughout the roster on offense – I think every skill [position] player minus Cody Hollister touched the football (Sunday) – that’s a lot of guys, and lot of guys helped us. … It was good to see everybody contribute.”

And it is difficult to envision anyone other than Tannehill under center for Tennessee next season and beyond.