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Front Page - Friday, December 20, 2019

Tannehill leans on faith, family in unstable NFL

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill cruises into the end zone during Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans. Tannehill came to the Titans this season as a backup to Marcus Mariota. He took over for Mariota late in the Oct. 13 loss at Denver and since has helped his team become a playoff contender. - Photo by James Kenney | AP Photo

Ryan Tannehill’s emergence as Tennessee’s starting quarterback sort of came out of left field from the Titans’ perspective.

When he replaced Marcus Mariota six weeks into the season, no one could have expected the results that Tannehill has produced.

A 6-2 record since becoming a starter is the top stat for Tannehill, who has completed 71.2% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions on the season.

And while the Titans fell short at home with a 24-21 loss to Houston Sunday, it has been the play of Tannehill – along with the rushing of Derrick Henry – that has the Titans still alive in the playoff chase at 8-6 after a 2-4 start.

Tannehill’s emergence in Nashville has been a pleasant surprise for a team that has been looking for a franchise quarterback since Steve McNair left town in 2005. The Titans have spent high draft picks on Vince Young, Jake Locker and Mariota only to have them fall short of expectations and force the club move on.

Tannehill himself knows that feeling. He was a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2012, the eighth pick overall, and was expected to be Miami’s first true franchise quarterback since Dan Marino.

And while he posted several good seasons for Miami, it wasn’t quite up to Marino’s Hall of Fame standards.

So when the Dolphins shopped Tannehill following a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Titans general manager Jon Robinson rolled the dice, essentially sending Miami a fourth-round pick for what he thought was an insurance policy against Mariota’s health.

Instead, Tannehill has turned out to be an insurance policy against Mariota’s failure to become the Titans’ franchise quarterback.

Tannehill admits he had no idea what the future held for him when his time in Miami waned.

“I didn’t know how it was going to play out,” the former Texas A&M quarterback explains. “I didn’t know where I was going to end up and ended up here. I was excited about the opportunity.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go, or if/when I was going to get an opportunity, but just wanted to make the best of it. I’m not a big guy on trying to forecast the future or anything, it’s more of trying to handle what’s right in front of you and be the best you can every single day.”

While Tannehill wouldn’t forecast what might happen in Tennessee, he acknowledges all he had to rely on was his faith and the support of his wife, Lauren, and his parents.

“My faith is huge to me. I don’t know if it’s one particular verse or anything like that, but my faith is huge,” he says. “I’ve leaned on that throughout my life, through the ups and the downs, the lows and the highs.

“A lot of things change, but God doesn’t change. He’s always there for me.

“My family has been great. My wife has been supportive since the day I met her. Just the ups and the downs, and everything we’ve been through. I’m thankful for the way my parents raised me and just instilling some values in me that I think helped carry me to this day.”

Tannehill has helped take Tennessee offense to a level it hasn’t enjoyed for several years. The locker room seem to consider the potential free agent – he’s unsigned for next season ­– the franchise’s present and at least short-term future at quarterback.

“He was always accurate, athletic and a good leader,” says cornerback Logan Ryan, who faced Tannehill’s Dolphins twice a year when he was a New England Patriot. “He’s on my side now, so I know him more personally. But he was a franchise quarterback before and he’s a franchise quarterback now. There’s no real difference except that we’re winning, and that helps.”

And that has the Titans likely having to strongly consider Tannehill as at least the immediate future at quarterback, whether that comes with a contract extension or the franchise tag in the offseason.