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Ryan Tannehill's Renaissance Has Been the Biggest Surprise of the 2019 NFL Season

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 24: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans calls a play against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first quarter of the game at Nissan Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans | Silas Walker/Getty Images

The 2019 season has brought NFL fans many unexpected developments. The Patriots are 10-1, but have been carried by their defense. Lamar Jackson is an MVP candidate and has looked unstoppable over the last month and change. The Colts are in contention for the division with Jacoby Brissett under center, and the Bengals (not the Dolphins) are far and away the worst team in the league. The list goes on.

Yet I contend the biggest surprise of this season goes not to Jackson's breakout or the Colts recovering from the most shocking retirement in recent NFL history, but rather to one Ryan Tannehill down in Nashville. The former Dolphins QB joined the Titans over the offseason to very little fanfare; most of the attention was focused on Marcus Mariota, the former No. 2 overall pick in the final season of his rookie contract.

Through six weeks of the season, the Titans were sitting at 2-4 without much semblance of hope. Mariota wasn't an effective runner anymore and the lows far outweighed his few highs. Tannehill replaced Mariota halfway through Week 6 after Mariota had thrown for 63 yards and two interceptions against (at the time), one of the worst defenses in the league in Denver. At that point, many viewers, including myself, assumed their season was sunk. Their supposed franchise quarterback had been benched for a guy who had never strung together even a half-season of quality football in six years.

Yet, here we sit five games later. Tannehill has led the team to four wins, and the Titans are back in the playoff picture after being left for dead. They thoroughly dominated the Jaguars this past Sunday to announce that they shouldn't be overlooked, and they owe a large part of their success to Tannehill's performance; he tossed two touchdowns to go along with 259 yards on 14-18 passing along with two rushing touchdowns. In his five games as a starter, he's thrown for a grand total of 1,276 yards and 10 touchdowns. Most importantly, he's posting a career-high completion percentage at 72.1 percent.

Tannehill will never be a superstar, but he's showing that he can be a winning quarterback by limiting his mistakes and playing within the offense. On a team constructed as the Titans are, that's all they need. Nobody expected Mariota's starting spot to be usurped by the 31-year-old Tannehill, but here we are -- and it's fun to see.