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Hey, remember Ryan Tannehill, the guy who saved the Titans season? He's here, too

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was named Comeback Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year by the Professional Football Writers Association on Friday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was named Comeback Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year by the Professional Football Writers Association on Friday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY — Finally, a little outside respect for Ryan Tannehill.

On Friday, when the Professional Football Writers Association named him both its Comeback Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year, you had almost forgotten that the former Dolphin is one of the final four quarterbacks still playing.

It’s been Aaron Rodgers this and Jimmy Garoppolo that, and here, in the build-up to the AFC championship game, ALL Patrick Mahomes.

But Tannehill deserves some love.

Remember, he did rescue the Titans season, taking the starter’s job from Marcus Mariotta in Week 7 and steering them home with a 7-3 record to make the playoffs. (Make that 9-3 now, after Tannehill beat Tom Brady-and Lamar Jackson-led teams to get this far).

It was a gutsy switch by coach Mike Vrabel. Mariotta is a popular guy and, in his fifth year as the man in Tennessee, he did have a couple of three-touchdown games early this season.

“He’s made some tough decisions and has done a good job in a lot of areas,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Vrabel. “That’s one of the toughest ones that you have to make. Both of them are good kids, so that it’s not because it is disrupting the team in any way. He made a decision where you have to play the best guys at that particular time of the season and that’s what he chose to do.”

Tannehill responded by leading the league with a 117.5 passer rating, just ahead of Drew Brees (116.3) and Jackson (113.3), who is expected to be named the NFL’s MVP.

Tannehill also tossed for 22 touchdowns and six picks, while opponents considered him a threat to run.

“I don’t know where people got off saying he was falling off,” said Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, giving Tannehill credit for “extending downs” with his 4.6 speed. “Great quarterback.”

Still, in the public eye of late, he’s been very much overshadowed by Derrick Henry (who’d be overshadowing any QB with the way he’s running) and the fact that, in the two playoff wins, he’s been 8-of-15 for 72 yards and 7-of-14 for 88.

On the NFL Network, David Carr’s winning stat line predictions for Sunday have Tannehill with 10-of-16 for 98 yards, with one passing TD. Carr has Mahomes at 35-of-42 for 430 yards and five touchdowns.

Tannehill reminds that he does like to throw he ball, but he likes winning more.

“At this time of the season it’s about doing what it takes,” he told reporters earlier this week, “whether it’s throwing it 30 times or throwing it 10.”

Meanwhile, Tannehill joins former Bengals QB Jon Kitna (2003) as the only players to be named both the Most Improved Player and Comeback Player in the same year by the PFWA.

“It’s definitely an honour,” said Tannehill. “It’s something that you don’t really think about as things are happening, but it’s cool to be honored in such a way.

“It just makes me thankful for the guys I’ve got to play with this year, and how this team has responded to everything we’ve been through, just continued to battle and find a way to win. We have a bunch of good guys on this team that love playing the game, that love working together and competing together. I’m proud of our guys. I think the award is a reflection of the kind of guys that we have on this team.”

If the Chiefs score like they can and are expected to on Sunday, the Titans won’t have the time to keep handing off to Henry.

Tannehill will have to throw the ball, and it could very well lead to a whole bunch more respect pouring in for him when the game is over.


The forecast Sunday calls for mostly sunny skies, with a temperature of -4C and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation. That’s a vast improvement from Friday, when a winter storm warning closed schools and the airport here. Turns out there was no snow, but some freezing rain that made driving and walking only a slight challenge … Speaking of walking, the locals sure do take good care of their feet. Just up the road from my hotel in Westport is a place called the Relax Spa, where the signage advertises a one-hour foot massage for $29.99 (and a half hour for $1.99, but it looks like there’s a number missing between the one and the decimal point). The crazy thing is it’s open until midnight, and walking by the other night I noticed it was very busy. Who goes for a foot massage at 11 p.m.? Unless …..


Both LeSean McCoy and Matt Moore got out of their sick beds to practice for the first time this week. Like Chris Jones, they remain questionable for Sunday … Travis Kelce said he’d be “good to go” after being limited at practice by a knee issue … Possible hero on Sunday is Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs exciting 21-year old rookie who had a 63-yard receiving touchdown against Tennessee in Week 10 and a 58-yard kick return to spark last week’s comeback against Houston. Hardman, a former Georgia Bulldog, says playing in the SEC and for coach Kirby Smart “definitely prepared me for this moment” under the intense spotlight.  The NFL playoffs, he says, are “definitely faster” than the regular season. “Guys are out there with a purpose,” he said. “It’s playoff time and (Reid) says it’s going to be faster this week. All I know is to just go out there, practice fast, and be prepared for it when the game comes. I’ll be ready.”

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