Ryan Tannehill and the Titans are reviving one another

Quietly, Ryan Tannehill is playing out his own redemption song this season.

After six largely mediocre seasons with the Dolphins during which he never lived up to being the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Tannehill has become one of the most unlikely success stories of this 2019 season.

The player who was supposed to be the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback is now the Titans’ 2019 savior, having taken over for Marcus Mariota, who was supposed to be the Titans’ franchise quarterback when he was drafted No. 2 in 2015.

When the Titans routed the Jaguars 42-20 on Sunday, it was Tannehill quarterbacking Tennessee to its fourth win in the past five games. The win gave the Titans a 6-5 record, which has them one game behind AFC South leader Houston and in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

The Titans were 2-4 and sinking when Mariota was benched in favor of Tannehill, who was 42-46 as the Dolphins’ starter. They are 4-1 with Tannehill as the Titans starter.

So, the man who failed to save the Dolphins is in the process of saving the Titans in 2019.

Tannehill was not an abject failure with Miami. He threw 123 touchdowns and 75 INTs. He simply wasn’t good enough to make Dolphins fans forget the previous run of quarterbacks who failed to take the franchise deep into the playoffs — Matt Moore, Chad Henne, Gus Frerotte and Jay Fiedler, among others, since Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino retired.

The sample size — five games — isn’t enough to say anything definitive about whether or not Tannehill should be the Titans’ quarterback for the next five years. What his success in Tennessee has shown, however, is that a change of scenery and lowered expectations have been healthy for Tannehill.

Tannehill indicated to reporters that his Miami-to-Tennessee experience, going from starter to backup, made him appreciate playing more once he returned to the field.

“I enjoy playing a lot, so there’s definitely a different aspect of just not taking the little things for granted,” Tannehill said. “Just enjoying every second that I get in preparation and competing with guys.”

One thing that’s been eye-opening about Tannehill’s recent run with the Titans has been his ability to engineer comebacks.

Three of Tennessee’s wins with Tannehill starting have been the result of late, game-winning drives. One of those games was an upset victory over the Chiefs, against whom Tannehill drove the Titans 61 yards in four plays in less than a minute to help them win.

Tannehill has completed 72.1 percent of his passes for the Titans (he was a 62.8-percent passer in Miami) for 1,420 yards, 10 touchdowns and four INTs with a 111.4 passer rating, which is considerably higher than his career passer rating with Miami of 87.0.

Tannehill downplayed his role in the Titans’ resurgence, deflecting it to others, telling reporters, “We’ve got good players on this team, good weapons on the outside, so (I’m) just trying to distribute the football and throw it to the open guy.”

But Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, before the Titans defeated Jacksonville Sunday, said he’d taken notice of what Tannehill has meant to Tennessee.

“I was in Buffalo when he was in Miami,” Marrone told reporters last week. “Watching him now, I really think he’s playing the best I’ve seen him play.”

The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after he posted a .563 winning percentage (36-28) in four seasons. Matt Patricia was hired from the Bill Belichick assistant coaching tree to get the Lions to the next level. Patricia has a .352 winning percentage (9-17-1) in his one-and-a-half seasons in Detroit.

Change isn’t always good. Sometimes change is just change.

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