Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t realize the firestorm he sparked when he claimed it isn’t his job to mentor rookie third-round QB pick Malik Willis. His comments quickly went viral and, according to Tannehill, got spun and twisted a bit.
“I meant no disrespect to Malik or anything close to that,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “We’ve been in constant communication since he was drafted, through the madness that ensued after my last press conference and over the last few weeks as he’s been in the building and kind of getting to know each other.
“He’s a good person. He’s a talented player. He’s coming off a great college career. We’re happy to have him in the room. Really just kind of disappointed in how things got spun and twisted a little bit.”
Maybe it’s self-preservation that prompted Tannehill to speak so candidly about his position on mentoring his potential replacement. There seemed to be a split over Tannehill’s initial sentiment. It’s natural for a QB, or any player for that matter, to feel jilted when the organization brings in their future replacement.
But Tannehill’s thoughts on sharing the QB room with Willis felt like insecurity. Had Willis been a first-round pick, I’d better understand Tannehill’s worry. But Willis was a third-round pick, and not even the Titans’ first selection in that round. Tannehill did lead the Titans to a 12-5 record last season and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Tannehill’s reaction to mentoring Willis feels like he knows the end is near in Tennessee. I’d like my veteran starting QB to have more confidence in his ability than that. Willis is the future of the Titans. Ryan is 33 years old, after all. And I don’t think Tannehill has anything to worry about this year.
Sure, we know the Russell Wilson story as he was also drafted in the third round, then came in and took the job from Matt Flynn, a player the Seahawks had just signed for $20.5 million, with $9 million guaranteed. However, Wilson’s isn’t a story we see every day, and Tannehill will probably be the starter in Tennessee for at least another season. I’m not saying Ryan doesn’t have the right to be frustrated by the pick, or at the questions surrounding it, but his response is what raised eyebrows.
There’s a fine line to walk in this situation because I’m sure Tannehill wants to be a good teammate, but his comments didn’t express that. His remarks made him look more like Brett Favre who had said the same when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005. But Rodgers was a first-round pick. So, this isn’t exactly the same.
It’s about competition and getting the best out of players. Maybe Willis’ selection will bring out the competitor in Tannehill and force him into survival mode. Tannehill had a career year in 2020, passing for 33 TDs, 7 INTs, and over 3,819 yards. Last season his numbers declined in all three categories, although the team continued winning, even with Derrick Henry out for half the year.
I believe Tannehill still has some good football left in him, but I’d just want to see more confidence out of my team’s leader. Unless Willis comes in and absolutely outperforms Tannehill in training camp/preseason as Wilson outplayed Flynn, Ryan will be QB1 for the Titans in 2022. So, the team drafted another QB. Big deal. Go ball out, and you won’t have to worry about Willis because he’ll be holding the iPad watching from the sideline.