It was another year, another winning season, another early postseason exit for the Tennessee Titans.
In 2021, Tennessee finished above .500 for the sixth straight campaign, fourth consecutive under coach Mike Vrabel and third in a row with Ryan Tannehill under center. The franchise has not had such a run of sustained success since the turn of the century Titans, led by Jeff Fisher and Steve McNair, went to the playoffs four times in five years and came up one yard short in the Super Bowl.
And yet, there are calls this offseason for Tennessee to shake things up offensively, and rumors linger about Tannehill's potentially tenuous future with the club, especially with a certain three-time MVP from Wisconsin possibly angling for a new home.
Despite the public doubt that Tannehill is in the Titans' plans, general manager Jon Robinson said this week in an interview with The Tennessean's Ben Arthur that the 33-year-old quarterback is safely entrenched as Nashville's north star.
"Ryan's a pro. He knows how much he means to us. Traded for that guy. Gave him an opportunity to start. New contract," Robinson said. "I think it's pretty apparent where he stands with us. He's our quarterback. I don't know how many more times I gotta say it."
Tannehill signed an four-year extension with the club in 2020 that keeps him in a Titans uniform through the 2023 season. The veteran is owed $29 million in base salary and is slated to count $38.6 million against the cap in 2022.
Parting ways with the reliable starter -- Tannehill hasn't missed a game in two years -- after leading the Titans to their third trip to the playoffs in a row seems short-sighted on its face. With Tannehill's guidance, the Titans navigated treacherous waters in the AFC without Derrick Henry for much of the season to seize the No. 1 seed in the conference with a 12-5 record.
However, the QB was prone to major mistakes in 2021, throwing for 14 picks and taking 47 sacks (each his most since 2013). Plus, Tannehill left a bad taste in every Titans fan's mouth with a three-pick performance in Tennessee's season-ending Divisional Round loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. His final pass of the season was intercepted and set up Cincy's game-winning field goal.
"It was a problem (in 2021)," Robinson said of Tannehill's turnovers. "The previous years, it really wasn't. Not that he didn't throw any (interceptions), but it wasn't as many as he threw this past year.
"Nobody probably feels worse than Ryan. Not to speak for Ryan about the amount of interceptions that went down this year and probably not all of them are on him. ... Sometimes, a DB makes a great play. Sometimes, a receiver may be off his spot. He may get pressured and the ball gets tipped. There's a lot that goes into those plays. But ultimately, the quarterback is the one who bears the blame for it."
Despite Tannehill's turnover problem, Robinson does not seem inclined to move on from the veteran, even with Aaron Rodgers rumored as a possible target. The mercurial Green Bay Packers passer's name was linked to Tennessee this week when a report out of Nashville emerged that Rodgers was "open" to joining the Titans via trade and that he was in the process of building a home in the Nashville area.
The Packers QB, 38, is a bit older but also way more careful with the pigskin (13 interceptions ... from 2019-2021) than Tannehill.
Age ain't nothing but a number to Robinson.
"There's a balance you have to have with veteran guys that have been in the fire, that have been through tough games that can help the younger guys acclimate themselves to pro football. There's a salary cap component involved. There's an overall salary number annually that's involved," Robinson said. "There's a lot of things that go into fitting all these different puzzle pieces and trying to put the puzzle together for what is now going to be the 2022 Titans."
Tannehill, not Rodgers or any other signal-caller, figures to be a critical piece of Jon's jigsaw.