Ryan Tannehill’s ‘support’ for young Titans quarterbacks depends on if they’re white

Ryan Tannehill’s 'support' for young Titans quarterbacks depends on if they’re white

In 2022, Ryan Tannehill wanted nothing to do with the new guy in town, Malik Willis — he’s Black. In 2023, Tannehill went out of his way to make sure people know that he supports the newer guy in town, Will Levis — he’s white.

This stuff writes itself.

“I don’t think it’s my job to mentor [Willis],” Tannehill said last year. “But if he learns from me along the way, that’s a great thing.” At the time, Tannehill was 33, and the 22-year-old Willis had been taken by the Tennessee Titans in the third round with the 86th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As you can see, Tannehill didn’t like it. It was like the plot of the 1999 cult classic “Any Given Sunday” happening in real-time.

“Kid’s breathing down my neck,” says Cap Rooney — played by Dennis Quaid — as he’s the old white quarterback who’s about to get replaced by the young athletic Black one, Willie Beamen — played by Jamie Foxx.

“He’s been really good throughout this whole process with keeping the relationship professional, while at the same time, helping me out in how he can,” the now 35-year-old Tannehill said about Levis last week.

“I wanna handle the situation with class, right?” Tannehill also added last week. “It’s not a fun situation to be in, but I want to be a pro and handle it with class and still be a guy that he can look to. So, not an ideal situation, but you know, I want to try to handle it well.”

The veteran is taking this hard, which is odd given that he once played wide receiver in college and knows what it’s like to take a quarterback’s job. But what’s clearer is how he’s handled things with Levis better than how he did with Willis, and his language is proof of that.

But beyond who Tannehill has publicly supported, and why, the situation looks even worse after Levis’ performance in the Titans’ 20-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Levis was 19-for-39 for 199 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception in a game in which he threw more incompletions than completed passes.

This isn’t to say that Willis has looked like the future of the franchise, either. He’s played in 11 career games and gone 35-for-66 for 350 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. His lone score has come on the ground, but he also has four career fumbles. In Levis’ three career games, he’s gone 60-for-107 for 699 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

 It’s easy to see what’s happening here and why the writing’s on the wall for Tannehill as Levis is setting himself up to be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Titans.

But in the end, we’ve watched the front office in Nashville draft young quarterbacks in back-to-back drafts. One is clearly doing better than the others. But in a season in which I previously wrote about how the league’s current state of the Black quarterbacks is built on a house of cards — despite 14 of them starting in Week One — what’s happening in Tennessee is the latest example of what I was trying to get people to understand. Ryan Tannehill knew what he was doing when he threw his support behind Will Levis and not Malik Willis. And while Levis may be the better option, what does it say when Black quarterbacks can’t even get supported in their own “QB rooms?” It says a veteran like Tannehill is holding up progress in more ways than one.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.