NASHVILLE – Ryan Tannehill does not have to bite his tongue anymore.
Two days into virtual meetings, the Tennessee Titans quarterback says he has interrupted his offensive coordinator and has made his preferences known to the team’s wide receivers.
He is not sorry, and he does not expect to do things any differently going forward. It is all part of the perks that come with being the starter, particularly one who led his team to the postseason last fall and then signed a sizable contract extension early in the offseason.
“It just clears things up,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “Leadership-wise, it makes things a lot simpler for me. I can just kind of be who I am and help guys along the way I like to. It’s not figuring out a new role or anything like that. … I just get to really buckle down and try to dig deeper into this offense and then also be myself as a leader and try to help our guys all grow.”
That means making himself heard at a time when players and coaches are not allowed to look one another in the eye.
Tennessee began virtual meetings on Monday. To date, those have been largely position-specific. The offense and the defense have yet to meet as entire groups.
The quarterbacks have spent time online with wide receivers in meetings led by second-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to discuss plays and route combinations that are at the core of the Smith’s scheme.
“(Smith) does a great job of allowing me to speak up,” Tannehill said. “If I interrupt him to say something, of course, he doesn’t get upset by that. In fact, he encourages it. He wants me to communicate to these guys. At the end of the day, the more trust a quarterback has in the guys running the routes, the better we’re going to be.
“… It all starts with communication – just being able to communicate with guys, build that relationship – and then when we are on a Zoom call, when we are talking football that I am able to just really voice my vision for plays, voice my opinion on the plays – how I like guys to run the route – and just be clear to so that we’re all on the same page.”
This time a year ago he was more inclined to sit quietly.
Acquired in a trade with Miami, where he had been a starter for seven seasons, Tannehill was the backup to Marcus Mariota. He was a newcomer in a new role and erred on the side of silence rather than risk speaking out of turn.
That status quo remained in place throughout the offseason and preseason and the first six weeks of the regular season.
At 2-4, coaches turned to Tannehill as their starter and the Titans secured the final AFC wild card berth with seven victories in their last 10 games. Then they advanced to the AFC Championship with a pair of road victories before the season finally ended with a loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City.
“I try to do the best I can in every situation I’m given,” Tannehill said. “When I was in the backup role, I tried to do the best I could at supporting Marcus, at being prepared to play and at preparing the defense to play on Sundays by giving them the best look I possibly could on scout team. … So, I was taking a step back and figuring out the role where this year I get to just be myself, be the leader that I am and – hopefully – bring guys together and elevate their play.
“As a backup, a lot of times, [I] couldn’t do that. You couldn’t state your opinion or how you wanted the guy to run your route. I had to just kind of go with the flow and bite my tongue a lot of times.”
Not this offseason.