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Ryan Tannehill Was The Second Least Accurate Downfield Passer Of 2018

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Plus other thoughts on the new Titans backup quarterback.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Getting a backup quarterback/insurance for Marcus Mariota was an issue the Titans needed to solve, and they addressed that by trading for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill had a disappointing comeback from knee injuries in 2018, but as a backup he’s a step up from the likes of Blaine Gabbert and Luke Falk.

Before injuries sapped away a lot of his athleticism, I thought Tannehill was actually a decent QB, especially in 2016. He was the fourth most accurate deep passer that season, and his ability to make throws on rollouts stood out. But two knee injuries in two seasons set Tannehill back, and behind a lackluster offensive line he was unable to create plays outside of structure the way he used to.

Tannehill’s downfield accuracy also took a major blow, as he went from the fourth most accurate deep passer in 2016 to the second least accurate in 2018. That’s a huge step down from Mariota’s ranking of seventh in the same category.

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Only Jameis Winston was less accurate than Tannehill on deep passes in 2018. On the other hand, I didn't really find any baffling misses from him, but his tight window accuracy was severely lacking. Still, that he only had four passes into open windows when throwing deep out of 32 attempts is a massive indictment on the coaching staff at the time.

Now obviously in most of these categories Mariota reigns superior to Tannehill in accuracy percentage. But while I’m weary of Tannehill as a starter in his current state, as a backup I think he’s far more capable than Gabbert or Falk were. Mobility and scrambling were a huge part of his game that were taken away by injuries, but as a pocket passer Tannehill has shown he is capable.

gamepass.nfl.com

The thing about Tannehill as a pocket passer that appeals to me is that his mechanics generally don’t break down all that much under pressure. Much like Mariota he’s relatively calm and collected in these situations.

Take this touchdown to Kenny Stills against the Raiders for example. Both of his tackles give up pressure to the edges, but Tannehill’s sights are kept on making a perfect tight window throw in the back of the end zone to Stills. His footwork remains smooth, and while he gets hit, his pass is right on the money for the score.

While Mariota is in the final year of his rookie contract, I don’t think Tannehill is being brought in to compete for the starting job. Since Mariota has never started a full 16-game stretch in his career and has missed significant playing time, Tannehill has been brought in by Jon Robinson to provide quality insurance as a backup option.

And bringing Tannehill in wasn’t all that expensive in the first place. The team gave up a fourth rounder in the 2020 draft and a seventh round pick in this year’s draft to the rebuilding Dolphins, which isn’t a bad deal for both sides. And Tannehill’s 1-year $7M deal with the Titans means there’s very little cap hit for Tennessee.

Perhaps with another year away from injury Tannehill’s deep accuracy will see some improvement, but from a starter’s perspective I think those days are over. However he looks to become one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, which is extremely valuable, especially if your starting quarterback isn’t all that durable.

For what it’s worth, I think this was a good move by the Titans front office.