Ryan Tannehill is not new to the Tennessee Titans. After all, he started 10 games and three playoff contests during the 2019 season.
He does, however, represent a change. For the first time in five years the Titans will have a new Week 1 starter at quarterback and for the first time in nine years their Week 1 starter won’t be a quarterback drafted by the organization.
With that in mind, here is a look at what the Titans are getting with their decision to resign Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million contract extension.
Continuity: The Titans were one of the NFL’s hottest teams at the end of last season. They won five of their final seven in the regular season and then reached the AFC Championship following a pair of road victories in the playoffs. Wide receiver A.J. Brown topped 100 yards receiving in four of the last six contests in the regular season, and third-year tight end Jonnu Smith had seven games with three or more receptions when Tannehill was quarterback (he had three for his career prior to that). Plus, the offense was the NFL’s best in the red zone. Players and coaches have the ability to build off all of that rather than start over with somebody else.
Durability: Tannehill started the final 10 games of the regular season and all three playoff games. During his seven years in Miami, he started all 16 games four times. The man he replaced, Marcus Mariota, never played 16 games in a season and only once in five years strung together more than 13 straight appearances. Keep in mind, Tannehill ran the ball 43 times and was sacked 31 times in 2019 but – unlike Mariota – no one held their breath every time an opposing player got close to him. If he manages to start all 16 games this season, he will be the first quarterback to do so for Tennessee since Matt Hasselbeck (2011).
Playoff performance: Over a 10-year period, the Titans used three top 10 overall draft picks on quarterbacks – Vince Young (third overall, 2006), Jake Locker (eighth overall, 2011) and Mariota (second overall, 2015). Those three combined for four playoff starts and one postseason victory. Tannehill delivered two playoff victories last season. He was not brilliant in those triumphs (51.7 completion percentage, three TD passes, 88.3 passer rating) but he avoided the big mistakes that can get you beat, which was enough to get this team to within a game of the Super Bowl.
Experience: Tannehill has 100 career regular-season games (98 starts) to his credit. The last time the Titans had a quarterback with at least 100 games to his credit as their Week 1 starter was 2011 (Hasselbeck). That year the Titans went 9-7, which was a three-win improvement over the previous season and their first winning season in three years. The last time the franchise had such an experienced Week 1 starter but finished with a losing record was 2005 (Steve McNair, 4-12). Tannehill is 49-49 in his career as a starter. Presumably, he has learned enough to be able to win more than he loses.
Accuracy: Tannehill set a career-high and finished third in the NFL with a 70.3 completion percentage in 2019. While analytics suggest that he is not likely to be as good in 2020, his career completion percentage before last season was 62.8. By comparison, Mariota had a better completion percentage than that just once in his four full seasons as the starter (68.9, 2018). Outside of that, no other primary starter during the Titans era (1999-present) completed better than 62.6 percent of his passes in a season. That precision helped Tannehill finish second in the NFL last season in average yards-after-the-catch (6.21).