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Tannehill Comes Face to Face With His Past

AllTitans
AllTitans
 2021-12-31
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Ryan Tannehill

NASHVILLE – Durham Smythe remembers Ryan Tannehill as someone who had a lot to say to those who were willing to listen. And as a rookie tight end with the Miami Dolphins, Smythe was all ears.

“(Tannehill) was actually in the locker right next to me in 2018,” Smythe said. “Great guy. Great football mind. He’s one of those guys that can look at a defense and tell you a lot of things, just by really subtle things the defense does.

“So, it was nice having him honestly around my rookie year as a guy who could teach us a little bit coming right out of college.”

Sunday at Nissan Stadium, Tannehill will be on the opposite sideline from Smythe and the rest of the Dolphins when the Tennessee Titans play their final home game of the regular season. It will be a day unlike any other he has had in his NFL career, which began when Miami selected him eighth overall in the 2012 draft.

Over nine-plus seasons in the league, Tannehill has played against every team except one – Miami. Yet that has not exactly been a topic of conversion for the veteran quarterback in meetings and practices this week.

“Ryan’s so focused on the task at hand, each and every week,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “It’s one of the most impressive things about his professionalism. I haven’t even heard him reference former teammates or any of that stuff. He’s just focused on what we need to do schematically to get this (win).”

By now, the story is well-known. The Titans traded with the Dolphins in March 2019 to acquire Tannehill. All it took to get him was a seventh-round draft pick (Tennessee also got a sixth-round selection) because Miami was ready for a fresh start under coach Brian Flores, who had been hired two months earlier, and two previous staffs failed to accomplish much with Tannehill as their man under center.

Added to be Marcus Mariota’s backup, Tannehill took over as the starter in Week 7 of that season and immediately began to play the best football of his career. He led the league in a few passing statistics, helped the Titans reach the AFC Championship game in his first taste of NFL playoff football and was named the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year.

A comparison of Ryan Tannehill’s time with the Tennessee Titans and the Miami Dolphins:

CategoryMiami

Record

42-46

28-13

Win Pct.

47.7

68.3

Completion Pct.

62.8

67.1

Pass Yards/Game

232.2

235.4

Pass Tds

123

70

Pass Yards/Att.

7.0

7.9

INTs

75

27

Rush Yards

1,210

716

Rush TDs

6

18

Rush Yards/Att.

4.9

5.3

Playoff Starts

0

4

“Well, 2019 is not really something that is on my mind right now,” Flores said this week. “Ryan Tannehill is a very good player. He’s on the Tennessee Titans, who we are seeing this week. This is a major challenge for us. He can run. He can throw. He’s had a lot of success with them.

“… I think his demeanor, his temperament, the way he goes about things, his toughness, I think that shows on their offense. I think that permeates throughout their team. He’s shown leadership and this is going to be a tough challenge for us.”

During his years with the Dolphins, Tannehill never won more than eight games in a season and the only times he finished with a winning record were injury-shortened campaigns, 2016 (8-5) and 2018 (7-3).

With two games remaining in this season, he has started 41 straight games, the fourth-longest active streak among quarterbacks. Tannehill is tied for the most victories in franchise history by a quarterback in his first three years and already is the only one to win 10 games or more twice in his first three seasons with the team. Plus, he needs one win to tie Mariota for sixth all-time by a Titans/Oilers quarterback even though he has started 20 fewer games.

The Titans showed what they thought of him when they signed him to a four-year, $118 million contract on March 15, 2020, hours into that year’s free agent signing period.

“I am thankful for my time in Miami,” Tannehill said this week. “That was a special time of my life. I grew a lot there as a person and as a player. I became a father. I grew as a husband. I grew on the field as well. Thankful for my time there.

“As far as people, there are not a whole lot of players left that were there. There are handful of guys that are still on the team, but there has been a lot of turnover there. Not a big carryover of guys. Thankful for my time there and have no ill feelings towards Miami.”

Only nine players on the Dolphins’ current roster, in fact, were teammates with Tannehill in Miami. So, it is not as if Sunday’s contest will be a big reunion or will pit him against many guys that he used to face in practice.

Yet, if he wanted to make a statement about what that franchise gave up when it traded him, there is no better opportunity. Miami has won seven straight, its longest win streak since 1985, and currently holds the final playoff spot in the AFC by virtue of a tiebreaker over three other clubs.

A Tennessee victory not only would guarantee the Titans a second straight division title, it would spoil Miami’s streak and deal a serious blow to its playoff hopes.

“I’ve definitely been following him,” Miami linebacker Jerome Baker said. “When he was here, he was a guy that led by example. He always did the right thing. He’s a family man and I’ll never forget that.

“When he left, I was still just rooting for him to do well, but you know Sunday, it is what it is. You’ve got to turn the page and he’s on the other side now, but he definitely was always a great teammate, a great guy. Sunday, it’s just business is business.”

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