Tennessee Titans' Ryan Tannehill isn't a diva, and that might be his greatest appeal | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean
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Just when it looked like Aaron Rodgers would remain the undisputed melodrama champ of the NFL's offseason, a young challenger has arrived.

On Monday morning, Kyler Murray’s agent Erik Burkhardt put out a lengthy and head-scratching statement to tell everyone how much his client wants to play for the Arizona Cardinals – that is, if they “decide to prioritize” him with a new contract.



Tough negotiations happen in the NFL. Why Murray wanted his to be weighed in the court of public opinion, I don’t know. And I don’t care, frankly.

What I would care about if I were a Cardinals fan, though, is how the look-at-me stuff is going to fly with Murray's teammates.

The rest of the league wasn’t spending time thinking about Arizona's quarterback until he placed attention on himself – doing so after his Cardinals were no-shows in the playoffs. At a time for public humility, there hasn’t been much from a quarterback with zero playoff wins in three seasons.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs out of the pocket pursued by Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.

You look at this with Murray. And you look at Rodgers. And you look at Carson Wentz in Indianapolis. And you look around the league at a lot of other quarterback-needy franchises whose options range from mediocre to bad.

And then you look at Ryan Tannehill.

Looks a little better, doesn’t he?

Not great, but better

Don’t get me wrong: Criticism of Tannehill is fair these days. Poor playoff performances have made it so. He’s got plenty to do in the postseason to convince the Tennessee Titans or anyone else that he’s capable of getting it done when it matters most.

But as a new offseason gets into the usual hijinks and headlines, the more you start to remember why Tannehill is such a good fit for these Titans, a workmanlike outfit that keeps finding ways to be greater than the sum of its parts, which isn’t easy in a sport ruled by its stars (see the Los Angeles Rams).

The greatest asset Tannehill brings the Titans – along with a lot more wins (32) than losses (16) as their starter – is the complete lack of diva antics he brings to the most important position. He prioritizes being a good team guy, staying out of the spotlight.

For lack of a better word, Tannehill is boring.

Marcus Mariota was once the same way, which helped him get a longer run than he should have with the Titans.  Everyone loved Mariota and wanted it to work on the field as it was working off the field.

Players in a stable organization don’t turn on a popular teammate publicly, even if he’s a struggling quarterback.

The Titans never did that with Mariota, and they haven’t with Tannehill since the three interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional playoffs. Go check social media posts and interviews from the Pro Bowl or Super Bowl week. It’s a unified front for No. 17.

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Quiet on the QB front

Meanwhile, Tannehill himself has been a ghost. The media hasn’t seen him or heard from him since the playoff loss. Probably won’t until he’s back on the practice field.

Not surprising. If anything, Tannehill goes out of his way to not be a distraction. He hardly ever says anything interesting or the least bit controversial in media settings.

A rare exception was during last season's training camp. Tannehill – when asked, mind you – grumbled about league policies for unvaccinated players. He said that was the only reason he’d started the process of becoming fully vaccinated.

Even that, however, demonstrated an unselfish, team-first mentality. Tannehill didn’t want to get vaccinated. He said he relented because he didn’t feel like he could be the leader with the Titans that he wanted to be from a mandated distance.

Compare that to, say, the Colts' quarterback.

Wentz refused to get vaccinated, and it became a thing. Wentz wasn't committed to the Colts in that way. Months later, the Colts don’t sound committed to Wentz.

As for Tannehill? “He’s our quarterback,” said Titans general manager Jon Robinson at the Senior Bowl. “I don’t know how many more times I gotta say it.”

‘A complicated fella’

At the time, Robinson was essentially responding to intense Tannehill criticism and a report from 102.5-FM host Jared Stillman of Rodgers building a home in Nashville.

It made for irresistible gossip. What football fan wouldn’t want Rodgers quarterbacking their team? He’s the league’s MVP for a reason.

That reason is why one of the proudest, most prestigious franchises in pro sports keeps willing to be held hostage by him. Because if the past few years have taught anything about Aaron Rodgers, it's that he's mostly concerned with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers put up with it because they know – as does Rodgers and everyone else – that they'd suffer without him.

And yet, Rodgers hasn’t won a Super Bowl in more than a decade. Hard to see that as a coincidence when scanning the eight quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl since then: Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning.

Not a reputed jerk in the bunch. No one that would be – as Packers president Mark Murphy once famously called Rodgers – a “complicated fella.”

NFL teams don’t want a “complicated fella” to be their quarterback.

Especially the team in Nashville.

Reach Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes. 

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