In what has already been a frenetic start to free agency for the Tennessee Titans, general manager Jon Robinson just pulled off a move that will be talked about until this time next season.
Tennessee announced a trade with the Miami Dolphins today, giving up a fourth round pick in 2020 and this year’s seventh round pick in exchange for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a sixth round pick in this year’s draft.
The move led to the release of backup qb Blaine Gabbert.
General manager Jon Robinson addressed the media this afternoon and stated that both quarterbacks understand that Tannehill will be the backup to Tennessee’s embattled starter Marcus Mariota.
He then slipped in a bit of a qualifier by stating that Tannehill will push and compete with Marcus.
Sounds to me like Tannehill, who was a former top ten pick of the draft and face of a franchise himself, has no intention of coming in just to roll over and play dead as a glorified clipboard holder.
Sounds to me like Tannehill sees an opportunity to reclaim his role as a starting quarterback in this league, and that is the best thing that could happen to Mariota as he enters the most important year of his professional career.
While Mariota has been everything you could ask for in a franchise quarterback off the field since arriving in Tennessee in 2015, one could argue that he never had to look over his shoulder during his four-year career….regardless of his performance or lack of availability.
Good, bad, hurt, it didn’t matter because he knew the guy(s) behind him would never be given the keys to the franchise. Guys like Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst, Matt Cassel, and the recently released Blaine Gabbert.
Mariota has never looked over his shoulder and saw a guy with over 20,000 yards passing and 123 career touchdown passes. A guy, like himself, that has led a team to the playoffs as the starting qb.
Make no mistake about it, this changes things as the team looks toward the start of the offseason program.
And while his conversation with Robinson today may have left a knot in the pit of his stomach, Mariota and his supporters should look at this as a blessing in disguise….for both the qb and the team.
Competition brings out the best in true competitors, and Mariota has proven to be as competitive and resilient as they come when the pressure mounts.
There’s a reason why Mariota is one of the league leaders in fourth quarter comebacks since entering the league, and his heroic solo act in the second half of the 2017 wild card round in Kansas City is proof positive of his competitiveness and mental toughness.
From a team perspective, the Titans would have made the playoffs the last three seasons if not for a couple of bad performances from the backup qb position, so adding Tannehill on a team friendly one year deal makes all the sense in the world.
For Mariota, who already had millions of reasons to play his best football this season, adding a quality backup with skins on the wall who also has a fire in his belly to prove that he can still lead an NFL team, is the one non-monetary reason to push his game to new heights this season.
And I presume that he will.