Yes, I understand that Ryan Tannehill clarified his comments on Malik Willis just a few days ago, but his excuse for how those words got twisted just doesn’t make any sense.
“When I say that, I mean trying to help out whether it’s on the field, off the field, supporting each other, and just building those relationships.”
What does that even mean? You said it’s not your job to mentor him. That’s a pretty clear-cut statement, and even if it was misconstrued, Tannehill should be able to see the mental leap that reporters and fans took to come to that conclusion, right?
I know that both Willis as well as Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel said they were unbothered by Tannehill’s comments, but seriously, how hard is it just to say, “Yeah, I’m excited to work with him. He’s a great talent.” Boom! Job done. Everyone gets a gold star next to their name on the chalkboard and a sticker that says “I’m a good noodle!” — shout out to Spongebob. Did the media blow his statements out of proportion? Definitely, but you really can’t blame them when he replies to such an easy question with such a boneheaded answer, and his answer has only been made worse after Marcus Mariota gave a perfect response to the same question.
When asked whether he was excited to mentor Desmond Ridder this year, Mariota said, “Absolutely. I kind of always view that relationship in the quarterback room as important and special. I always felt that a good quarterback room can allow everybody to be better and allow everybody to grow. ... At the end of the day, if they’ve got questions or I’ve got questions, they’re a great set of eyes for me as well.”
I’m not even going to applaud that answer. It’s a good answer, but it’s also such an easy question. Just don’t cause drama, don’t be confrontational, and lift up the young guy in your locker room. Bada bing, bada boom! You aced your media session for the day. Now, just don’t tweet out anything stupid.
That’s exactly what Mariota did in this instance. He still expressed concern for his starting job in the interview, stating “I’m kind of hungry to get back on the field [and be a starter] again.” After all, one of the main reasons he signed with Atlanta was the opportunity to become the team’s starting quarterback, but the fear of losing out on that opportunity shouldn’t overshadow the opportunity to be a good teammate to a young player probably looking for someone to teach them how to navigate the NFL landscape.
The thing that bugs me the most about this whole situation though is that when I look back on the time Mariota and Tannehill spent with one another in Tennessee, you’d think their roles would be reversed. If anybody has the right to be nervous about another quarterback taking their job in the future, it should be the guy who once lost their job to a newcomer quarterback. Even after Mariota led the Titans to their first playoff win since 2003, the former No. 2 overall pick was replaced less than two years later. He was the guy. He caught his own pass for a touchdown in the Wild Card round, and he was tossed aside for a better option. He is the one who should be weary of losing his job. Yet it’s the guy who took Mariota’s job who seems jumpy at the thought of having another threat in the quarterback room.
Tannehill should be confident in his ability to win a starting job. He’s done it before. He reached a conference finals game for goodness sake, yet he couldn’t even say he was excited to work with Willis. Props to Mariota for showing the guy who replaced him how to handle someone replacing them. If only Tannehill took notes when he was taking Mariota’s job all those years ago.