The issue of mentoring among veteran quarterbacks is controversial. There can only be one starter, and there is no more conspicuous rite of passage than an old vet buried six feet below the depth chart depth by a young gun. However, egos are fragile. Kurt Warner has expressed his fondness for showing the ropes “Next Up”, and once he did just that for Eli Manning. However, when the reaper came for Eli, he refused Mentoring as one of his unwritten job descriptions.
Two years ago, Tannehill signed the Titans to a four-year extension worth $118 million, including $62 million in fully guaranteed money and $91 million in total guarantees. Tannehill was just about to lead the Titans to the AFC Championship Game after throwing 22 touchdowns and 6 intercept. Two years later, the Titans emerge ready for the Next Guy Up. Tannehill is essentially a well-paid independent contractor in 2022 while hoping he’ll be brought back also for 2023.
On Day 2 of the NFL Draft, Tennessee selected Liberty quarterback Malik Willis with the 86th pick overall. Willis was a first-round double threat quarterback with mechanical and mental flaws that will likely keep him a redshirt through 2022. Now that the dust has settled from Willis’ plummeting stocks and crash-landing in Tennessee, Tannehill hears the ominous ticking on the time bomb that is his dwindling existence as a starter.
Willis is a group project that the Titans’ QB coach and offensive coordinator will be working on. But Tannehill is suspending it, he told the media in Nashville on Tuesday.
“That’s part of being in a quarterback room, in the same room — we compete against each other, we watch the same video, we do the same drills.” Tannehill explained to the media. “I don’t think it’s my job to look after him. But if he learns from me on the side, that’s a great thing.”
If it takes a village to raise a quarterback, 33-year-old Ryan Tannehill doesn’t want to be a part of the endeavor. The NFL is a business where every player takes care of themselves before their limited earning window hits. Tannehill has a nice little nest egg waiting for him in 2023. The longer it takes for Willis to flourish, the longer Tannehill is staying with AFC’s Jimmy Garoppolo. It is difficult, unsatisfying work, but someone has to do it. If Willis improves too quickly, Tannehill will be out of a job.
Tannehill only gets grouchy in his final years and is starting to show some rust, but he can still hurl it well enough to keep Titans fans from grabbing their pitchforks. Tannehill did a cromulent job in 2021 that Baker Mayfield could probably do at half price. However, the parameters of Tannehill’s contract prevent the Titans from forgoing or trading him without incurring significant financial damage for 2023. According to Spotrac, a Tannehill trade before June 1 would leave the Titans with a $28.4 million dead cap. A trade after June 1 would split that dead cap fee between 2022 ($9.6 million) and 2023 ($18.8 million).
In 2021, Tannehill managed the game so well that Tennessee stumbled into the AFC No. 1 seed for nine games without Derrick Henry in the backfield. However, Henry’s absence made itself felt in Tannehill’s production. Tannehill threw a career-high 14 interceptions, fewer touchdowns than in his 12-game debut season in Tennessee, and his yards gained per try plummeted for the second straight season of hits.
Unease over Tannehill Mayfielding and his Molotov cocktail game against the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round convinced Tennessee that it would be in their best interest to design a rookie signal caller that they could mold into a potential franchise quarterback . Tannehill is keen to avoid the inevitable NFL retirement home with clipboards for as long as possible.
If Tannehill goes down and Willis isn’t ready. Tough luck, Tennessee. It takes a whole village to raise a quarterback. Just don’t ask Tannehill for help.