Ryan Tannehill spent seven seasons as the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, one of which was spent on the sidelines due to injury. But it wasn’t until a trade sent him to the Tennessee Titans prior to the 2020 season that things started to take off for the former first-round pick.
Tannehill’s time in Miami was inconsistent with plenty of blame to go around
Tannehill spent six total seasons in Miami, three of which yielded a losing record. Two other seasons included an 8-8 record. Surprisingly — or maybe unsurprisingly — only one of his seasons there ended with a winning record.
That season came in 2016 when the Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Ultimately, the team lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard round, but that was with backup Matt Moore under center due to Tannehill’s partially torn ACL.
Miami fans held onto the hope that the former Texas A&M wide receiver turned quarterback would develop into the franchise-saving star many had hoped he would become when he was selected No. 8 overall during the 2012 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, it never happened.
The media and fans alike put much of the blame on the coaching turnover there in Miami, as Tannehill played under three different head coaches during that period. The next step was to blame the players surrounding the 6-foot-4, 217-pound signal-caller, mostly the offensive line that was brought in to protect him. At the end of the day, however, the calls were for Tannehill himself.
Miami trades Tannehill to the Titans
When Titans traded for Tannehill, there were many who were surprised that the Dolphins were able to land something in return, as there was a growing belief that the team would drop the quarterback due to the struggles (both on the field and with injuries) and lackluster market.
The trade sent Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick to Tennessee in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2019 and a fourth-round pick in 2020.
The Dolphins, from the outside looking in, had gotten away with highway robbery for what was expected to be a backup quarterback whose career appeared to be on its last leg. Little did we know that his role as the No. 2 option behind former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, who was selected No. 2 overall just three seasons prior, was temporary.
In fact, Tannehill’s career was saved by falling into the best possible situation for him and his skill set.
Ryan Tannehill provided an instant spark for the Titans
In the Week 6 contest in Denver against the Broncos, Tannehill was thrust into game action after Mariota’s two interceptions resulted in the Oregon product being benched. And how did Tannehill respond?
Well, the former Dolphin completed 13 of his 16 passes attempted for 144 yards and one interception. However, Tennessee walked away with a 16-0 loss the team’s first shutout in two seasons.
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The following week against the Los Angeles Chargers, Tannehill cemented himself as the permanent starter under center, as he threw for 312 yards, two touchdowns and only one interception off 23 completions. In other words, the Titans had found its quarterback.
Tannehill finished the 2019 regular season with an impressive 7-3 record, a 70.3-percent completion percentage, 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He finished with the league’s highest passer rating of 117.3.
Yes, Tannehill’s statistical impact in Tennessee’s AFC Championship run was limited, but he was still able to prove his worth en route to signing a new four-year deal worth $118 million during the offseason. It also led to Mariota signing a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders worth up to $17.6 million.
What changed when Tannehill moved from Miami to Tennessee?
Was this the same Ryan Tannehill who Dolphins fans were thrilled to cast off? If so, what changed? Well, the move to Tennessee was the best thing to happen to Tannehill — and there are plenty of reasons to support that.
For starters, he finally had a head coach who fans and players could trust and support. While in Miami, he played a majority of his seasons under Joe Philbin, who wasn’t popular amongst the Miami fanbase.
The team’s front office had already put an effort into building the offense around All-Pro running back Derrick Henry, which led to Tannehill not having the weight of the entire team on his shoulder. In other words, a well-rounded offense meant Tannehill had the talent around him to help make him better.
Henry made the running game an immediate threat and forced opposing defenses to put its focus on, and the former Alabama running back single-handedly opened up the passing game. That development allowed Tannehill more consistent access to the many weapons such as A.J. Brown, Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries at his disposal.
Previously, his biggest weapons in Miami were an inconsistent DeVante Parker and whoever was the hot name in the revolving door at wide receiver. It also didn’t help that talented running backs like Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake were never utilized correctly.
But most importantly, the stat that most likely led to Tannehill’s success was the lack of sacks allowed by his offensive line. In 2019, he was only sacked 31 times, the second-lowest mark of his career.
Consistency is key for any NFL quarterback
Consistency is a key component for having success in the NFL, especially at the quarterback position. Is Tannehill a different player now than he was in Miami? No, but he’s now being given opportunities he wouldn’t have otherwise had if he had stayed in South Florida.
The trade that landed Tannehill in Tennessee didn’t just benefit the quarterback and his new team. It also benefitted the Dolphins. After a year of struggling, Miami received the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and chose Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who is expected to be a franchise-altering pick.
At the end of the day, the Titans were thrilled to take a 31-year old castoff and turn him into a quarterback capable of taking the team deep into the playoffs.