Shepard on Tannehill: Sometimes all you need is a second chance

Ryan Tannehill
Photo credit USA Today Images
By CBS Sports Radio

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was in the same 2012 NFL Draft Class. 

Wilson was picked in the third round, 67 picks after Tannehill. In his seven seasons with the Dolphins, the MOST wins Tannehill ever had was eight. Wilson had a much different story in his first seven seasons in which he ALWAYS finished with a winning record. He won so much that in his first three NFL seasons he won 67% of his games in the POSTSEASON. This included two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl victory. 

In his first seven years in Miami, Tannehill never even played in a postseason game. The Dolphins chose to move on from Tannehill, then 30, following the 2018 season, as they thought his better days were behind him. As a result, they traded him to the Tennessee Titans. This was the best thing that could have happened to Tannehill’s career. When Tannehill first arrived in Tennessee, Marcus Mariota was the Titans’ franchise quarterback. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said numerous times in the summer of the 2019 season that Tannehill would not even be competing for starting snaps in training camp. That is how cemented Tannehill’s status was as a backup at the time. Mariota did not nearly live up to expectations last season. In Week 6 on the road, Vrabel decided to insert Tannehill into the game; the next week, he was the Titans’ starter and would never look back. The Titans, after going 2-4 with Mariota, finished the season 7-3 with Tannehill. Even though he played just 10 games, it was by far his best regular season. Then the 2019 NFL Playoffs happened. In their first-round matchup with the Patriots, Titans running back Derrick Henry was the MVP of the game. However, it was Tannehill who outplayed Tom Brady in Brady’s house. This would be Brady’s last game as a Patriot. Tannehill then went to Baltimore for the Divisional Round and thoroughly outplayed NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. The Titans, led by Tannehill, knocked off the best team record wise out of the playoffs. In the AFC Title game, they matched up with the Kansas City Chiefs. If not for a historically great comeback by Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, Tannehill would have gone to the Super Bowl. The best player on the Titans in this game was Tannehill and it was not close. Last year, 2019, was the ultimate comeback year for Tannehill. In fact, he was voted the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year. If you really examine his 2019 season, he should have been voted MOST IMPROVED. Last season marked the first time he had played in a Pro Bowl. His level of play would soon be rewarded. Not long after the postseason, Tannehill signed a contract worth nearly $30 million per year for four years and that included over $60 million guaranteed. That kind of money equates to generational wealth. It was a career year, and by NFL standards, he deserved it. You could not blame the guy for becoming complacent after a regular season and postseason run like that. No need to worry because he got even better. Tannehill is matching up with the absolute best in the NFL this season. Through roughly one-third of the season, he has the same touchdown-to-interception ratio as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He also is just six passing yards shy of Rodgers for the season so far. He has a BETTER touchdown-to-interception ratio than Russell Wilson, the MVP favorite so far in 2020. He has as many touchdown passes as Mahomes, who many consider the BEST player in the NFL right now. Tannehill is also connecting on 70% of his pass attempts; Rodgers checks in at 65.5%. Did you ever think that Ryan Tannehill would be better than freaking Aaron Rodgers through the first 1/3 of the 2020 NFL season? There is also one other crucial factor that really makes Tannehill’s 2020 season special so far…

Tannehill is one of three quarterbacks to start the season 5-0. The other two are FIRST-ballot Hall of Famers in Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson. Just to be clear, Tannehill has NEVER had a season in which he won more than eight games. He could go under .500 for the rest of the season and still finish with a 10-6 record. The Dolphins essentially replaced Tannehill with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is electric and can absolutely be “Fitzmagic”, but he is far from Tannehill. Fitzpatrick is 7-11 as the Dolphins quarterback over the least two seasons. Tannehill, keep in mind, is 12-3 as a Titan over the same timeframe. 

Second chances often work out better than the first because you grow from your mistakes. Tannehill is making the most of his second chance. It is now the Dolphins wishing they had a second chance when it comes to their decision of wanting to go in a different direction than Ryan Tannehill. 

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.