The Tennessee Titans were No. 1 and done.
Following an AFC Divisional Round defeat that saw Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill throw three interceptions in a loss to the Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals, the QB's weathered a storm of criticism.
However, he's also garnered support aplenty, the latest coming from Pro Bowl teammate Rodger Saffold.
"Let's be serious, this guy led us over here. He dragged us from a 2-4 season out of the gutter and into the AFC Championship," Saffold, a guard, said Friday at Pro Bowl practice, via the Titans’ team website’s Jim Wyatt. "We know that he can take us there."
Saffold's 2-4 reference reaches back to the 2019 season in which Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota as the Titans' starter after a dismal start through six games. Tannehill keyed the team securing a wild-card berth and a stunning march to the AFC title game that season.
In his two-plus seasons as Tennessee's starter, Tannehill has produced a 30-13 record to go with two AFC South titles and three consecutive playoff berths, a feat not accomplished by the club since it was the Houston Oilers and struck the postseason from 1987 through 1993 consecutively.
Thus, Tannehill's time with the Titans overall overshadows one unfortunate showing this postseason, according to Saffold and Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who firmly stated Tannehill "is our quarterback" earlier in the week.
"All I gotta say is a lot of us had a rough go this year," Saffold said. "There was a lot of things going on, me dealing with injuries, other guys dealing with injuries. Guys not playing as well. He had a rough go, but to me, I really feel like he's the true definition of a Titan."
Tannehill passed for 3,734 yards, 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2021, his TDs a low for his time with the Titans and his INTs a high. Nonetheless, it cannot go overlooked that Tannehill played all 17 games while running back Derrick Henry and wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones missed a combined 11 games.
There's no getting away from the 60 minutes of struggle that were Tannehill's showing in the loss to the Bengals. He was 15 of 24 for 220 yards, a touchdown, the three picks and a 66.7 QB rating on a day in which the Titans were 1 of 8 on third down and unable to cash in on being the AFC's top seed.
The sting of the loss has brought about questions regarding Tannehill and plenty of others.
"I've heard a lot of stuff about me, too, and I've heard a lot of stuff about other guys, and I heard a lot of stuff about trades," Saffold said. "And all of it is flabbergasting to me, cause I'm honestly, I love my team and I love the guys I'm working for."
Like any great offensive lineman, Saffold's protecting his quarterback. And though Tannehill and the Titans' season hardly ended on a positive note, the support he's received looks to be evidence to why he'll likely be back as Tennessee's QB1 in 2022.