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

Former Aggie Ryan Tannehill reinvents himself with the Titans

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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Astros defeat the Rangers, 9-2. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

Kyle Tucker doubled twice and had three RBIs and Jose Altuve added three hits and drove in two runs as the Houston Astros used a seven-run seventh inning to break a tie and coast to a 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

The Astros snapped a four-game skid and bounced back after allowing the Rangers to score their season high in a 12-8 win in the series opener.

Altuve said he hopes this game can help get the Astros on a roll after their early struggles.

“We as a team are very confident... this is the kind of team we are, we have done it before,” Altuve said. “I don't see why we can't start doing it again.”

It was tied at 2 and the bases were loaded with one out in the seventh when pinch-hitter Victor Caratini’s RBI single to right field off José Ureña (0-1) put the Astros on top.

Altuve followed with a double to the corner of left field to send two more home and push the lead to 5-2. Austin Pruitt took over and intentionally walked Yordan Alvarez before Tucker doubled to center field to score two more.

Houston made it 9-2 when Alvarez scored on a sacrifice fly by Yainer Diaz.

“That was great,” manager Joe Espada said. “That’s the offense that I’m used to seeing. When we get pitchers against the ropes, we've got to put them away and that’s exactly what we did today.”

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut and pitched six scoreless innings Sunday, gave the Astros another solid start Saturday. He gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down to pitch five scoreless frames. He allowed five singles with three walks and five strikeouts.

It was a much-needed performance after Houston’s starters had allowed 31 earned runs with a 20.93 ERA across 13 1/3 innings in the last five games.

“It started with Blanco,” Espada said. “He set the stage and then our offense got some big hits.”

Texas starter Andrew Heaney yielded four hits and two runs while walking four in 3 2/3 innings.

“I’m fighting myself a little bit right now, mechanically, mentally, just having a hard time getting some traction, getting going,” he said. "So I’m just going to keep working.”

The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Bryan Abreu (1-1) struck out Evan Carter to escape the jam before Houston took the lead in the bottom of the inning.

Rookie Wyatt Langford had two hits and an RBI for Texas and Adolis García added two hits.

Houston’s José Abreu, who is hitting just .122 this season, had two hits with a double for his first multi-hit game this season and his first extra base hit of the year.

Blanco walked Evan Carter and García with two outs in the first before giving up his first run of the season on an RBI single by Josh Smith. Langford followed with a run-scoring single to push the lead to 2-0.

Abreu opened the fourth with a double and moved to third on a groundout by Jake Meyers before scoring on a groundout by Mauricio Dubón to cut the lead to 2-1.

Heaney then hit Altuve and Alvarez with pitches and was lifted for Jacob Latz. Tucker lined a double into center field to score Altuve and tie it at 2-2.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: LHP Brock Burke was placed on the 15-day injured list Saturday after breaking his right hand punching a wall after a poor outing Friday night. … Pruitt had his contract selected from Triple-A Round Rock to take his spot on the roster. … INF Justin Foscue (left oblique strain) was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day list.

Astros: 3B Alex Bregman missed a second straight game with flu-like symptoms. … RHP Shawn Dubin (forearm strain) was reinstated from the 15-day injured list Saturday to take the spot of RHP Joel Kuhnel, who was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land.

UP NEXT

Texas RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 1.45 ERA) opposes RHP Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.10) in the series finale Sunday.

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