NFL

Why Nobody Gave Ryan Tannehill and the Titans a Chance to Win This Year

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Ryan Tannehill and his Tennessee Titans are within touching distance of the Super Bowl.

Every sports fan loves a good underdog story. In this year's NFL playoffs, the Tennessee Titans are playing that role to a tee. While the Chiefs, Packers, and 49ers all posted strong seasons, the Titans didn't even win their division; after starting the season 2-4, they made an improbable run to the playoffs thanks to Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill.

None of that matters now, though, as the Titans are within touching distance of the Super Bowl. Sunday's meeting with the Chiefs will give the club, and Ryan Tannehill, the chance to prove the doubters wrong.

All the questions about the Tennessee Titans started at quarterback

In the modern NFL, it's tough to win without a dynamic quarterback under center. At the start of the season, that was arguably one of the biggest strikes against the Titans.

Tennessee started the season with Marcus Mariota running the offense; although we all remember the quarterback's Heisman-winning potential, it had been a while since he'd shone consistently. While he finally stayed healthy in 2019, Mariota did lose his starting job to Ryan Tannehill.

Let's go back to that point in the season. It's the end of Week 6 around the NFL, and the Titans are 2-4. They've just benched their starting quarterback in favor of Tannehill, who they acquired for the measly cost of a fourth-round pick. While Tannehill some surprisingly solid career numbers, he's never been an elite quarterback; at that point, the switch looked like a move to salvage some respectability in a lost season.

As we all know, though, that move did a great deal more than keeping the Titans relevant down the stretch.

Ryan Tannehill's run of impressive performances

When Mike Vrabel put Ryan Tannehill under center, he was trying to stop the bleeding in a 16-0 loss. While the change didn't earn Tennessee a win that weekend, it changed the course of their campaign.

Once Ryan Tannehill took over, he started throwing the ball downfield with impressive success. The Titans offense gained nearly 10 yards per passing attempt; while that number is impressive on its own, it's even more striking when you consider that Tannehill also completed over 70% of his throws.

Once their passing game started rolling, everything clicked into place for the Titans. Derrick Henry started posting 100-yard games virtually every time he took the field; once opposing defenses started packing the box, Tannehill had no problem throwing over the top.

After Ryan Tannehill took over the starting job, he threw for 2,742 yards and 22 touchdowns. During that stretch, the Titans went 7-3 and forced their way into the playoffs.

Can Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans pull off the upset?

During the regular season, Ryan Tannehill lifted the Tennessee Titans to victory after victory with potent performances. In the playoffs, though, things have been a bit different.

During the Titan's two postseason games, it's been the Derrick Henry show. While the running back has piled up 377 yards; Tannehill has dropped into a supporting role, throwing for less than 100 yards each outing. The quarterback isn't concerned with his decreased production, though, as everyone on the squad is willing to sacrifice individual glory to win.

It won't be easy to pick up a win in Kansas City, but the Titans might be uniquely poised to knock off the Chiefs. If Henry is able to run wild—as he's done in previous meetings with K.C.—Tennessee will do more than just score at will; they'll keep Patrick Mahomes and his potent offense off the field.

All season long, people have been overlooking Ryan Tannehill and his Tennessee Titans. If they pick up another win on Sunday, it will be impossible to keep doubting them.

Author photo
Joe Kozlowski
Sports Editor

Joe Kozlowski began his career as a sports journalist in 2013 and joined Sports7 in 2019. He covers the NBA and soccer for Sports7, with specialties in legacy NBA players such as Michael Jordan and Premier League club Arsenal. Off the clock, he's a Kansas City Chiefs fan and a hockey goalie. Growing up loving Shaquille O'Neal and reading everything he could about the great big men throughout NBA history — likely because he was still tall enough, at least relative to his peers, to play center — he's continued to love learning about and exploring the historical and story-based sides of the basketball archives. As for Arsenal, Joe spent a year living in London and latched onto the local support of the club. He's barely missed a match since, loving Arsene Wenger, enduring the Banter Era, and following along through rebuilds. The Premier League interest developed into a passionate following of the Champions League, Europe's big five league, and international soccer as a whole when played at the highest level. Regardless of the sport, Joe is captivated by the stories of athletes beyond the box scores and how they push the envelope — both in terms of what we think a human is capable of accomplishing and how they find new competitive tactics to win.

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Author photo
Joe Kozlowski Sports Editor

Joe Kozlowski began his career as a sports journalist in 2013 and joined Sports7 in 2019. He covers the NBA and soccer for Sports7, with specialties in legacy NBA players such as Michael Jordan and Premier League club Arsenal. Off the clock, he's a Kansas City Chiefs fan and a hockey goalie. Growing up loving Shaquille O'Neal and reading everything he could about the great big men throughout NBA history — likely because he was still tall enough, at least relative to his peers, to play center — he's continued to love learning about and exploring the historical and story-based sides of the basketball archives. As for Arsenal, Joe spent a year living in London and latched onto the local support of the club. He's barely missed a match since, loving Arsene Wenger, enduring the Banter Era, and following along through rebuilds. The Premier League interest developed into a passionate following of the Champions League, Europe's big five league, and international soccer as a whole when played at the highest level. Regardless of the sport, Joe is captivated by the stories of athletes beyond the box scores and how they push the envelope — both in terms of what we think a human is capable of accomplishing and how they find new competitive tactics to win.

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