How a washed-up quarterback in Miami became a shining star in Nashville

Former Aggie Ryan Tannehill reinvents himself with the Titans

Former Texas A & M Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is having a miraculous season for the Tennessee Titans through his first six starts. He has rejuvenated his career and saved the Titans playoff chances after they got off to a sluggish 2-4 start.

After being traded from the Dolphins to the Titans during the 2019 offseason, Tannehill didn't know where his career would go from there. His tenure in Miami was arguably a failure due to constant injuries, and underperforming at pivotal times of the season. Tennessee got him on a one-year deal to be an insurance policy for the also injury-prone Marcus Mariota. For the first six weeks of the season, the Titans were inconsistent finishing with a record of 2-4 which included an embarrassing a 16-0 loss to the at the time last-place Denver Broncos.

Titans' Head Coach Mike Vrabel knew that a change at to be made to turn their season around. Enter Tannehill. The former No. 8 overall pick was named the team's starter in Week 7 and lead them to a 23-20 victory over the Chargers. Since then, Tannehill and the Titans have gone 5-1 and he lead a comeback victory over the heavily favored Kansas City Chiefs.

As it currently stands, the Titans are now two games above .500 with a 7-5 record and only one game behind the Texans in the AFC South standings. The former Aggie is on pace to post single-season career-highs in a multitude of statistics including passer rating and completion percentage.

But how did an expendable backup quarterback become such a hot commodity in the NFL? Mike Vrabel's coaching system has a lot to do with it, but I think he went into a perfect QB situation as well.

At the start of the 2019 season, the Titans knew that Marcus Mariota was going to be their number one quarterback. He was a good not great quarterback in three of his first four years in Tennessee. His best year came when he led the Titans to the playoffs in 2018 where he defeated the Chiefs in the Wild-Card Round but ultimately lost to the Patriots in the Divisional Round.

Mariota was at his finest when he was a pocket passer. As defenses started to figure him out he resorted to what he did best, scrambling. Although that may have worked at Oregon, the NFL is a totally different animal, and you can't always rely on your legs to get you out of trouble as you could in college. Mariota started to regress under Vrabel's first year as the Titan's head coach, which ultimately lead to the Titans finishing with a 9-7 record missing the playoffs on the last game of the season. That and he couldn't stay healthy which forced Blaine Gabbert into the starting quarterback position at the end of the 2018 season.

So enter the 2019 season. The Titans are starting to have questions about Mariota's durability, and what is their answer? An equally injury-riddled Ryan Tannehill. An odd strategy at first glance to have two weekly questionable quarterbacks under center, but the Titans thought process must have been one of these quarterbacks has to be healthy every week of the regular season.

It is a similar situation to that of Case Keenum in Minnesota. Both Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater were coming off injury plagued seasons, and Keenum ending up starting for the remainder of the year and lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship.

Mariota started the year with an impressive victory over the Browns in Week 1, but since then his numbers regressed and he was untimely benched in favor of Tannehill in their loss to the Broncos. The next week Tannehill was announced as the starter to try and mix things up and ended up working in favor with the Titans. Vrabel's call to change starters after Week 6 has not only saved the Titans season but also showcased that Tannehill is still a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL. He changed for the better when he became the new QB for the Titans and reinvigorated his career thanks to Vrabel.

Vrabel knows how to use Tannehill better than any of his coaches did in Miami. With the exception of Adam Gase's first year as the Dolphins coach, Tannehill has never had a good head coach. Joe Philbin was never a confident coach, and Dave Campbell's short tenure was mediocre at best. Now Tannehill is playing with a confident coach who knows how to utilize him perfectly.

His offense is heavily predicated on the run game with Derek Henry being the focal point. Essentially, Tannehill just has to be a game manager to succeed. He is not only managing, he is also thriving under Vrabel's system. He is leading comebacks against big teams like the Chiefs, and as previously mentioned, and earning career-high in passing stats across the board. He is becoming the dual-threat quarterback he was always meant to be when he was drafted out of Texas A&M.

The biggest change between Tannehill's time in Miami and his time in Tennessee is that he is more willing to make throws outside to his receivers instead of quick slants to his tight ends. This subtle change is forcing defenses to stretch their coverages, and he has given defensive coordinators pause for concern when he throws his above-average deep ball.

So where does this leave Tannehill next year? He is a free agent after this season and could be one of if not the most sought after quarterbacks this offseason. Early reports indicate that he could make as much as $27 million if the Titans franchise tag him. Other reports suggest he could test the free-agent market and get a Nick Foles level contract with a team needing a new quarterback such as the Chargers, Bengals and Bears. Oh my. That is an absurd about of money considering where he started this season.

Tannehill went from being a washed-up quarterback in Miami to a shining star in Nashville, with an even brighter and greener future this offseason.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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