Ryan Tannehill, NY Jets, Titans
Ryan Tannehill, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Getty Images

New York Jets would be wise to keep Ryan Tannehill as a backup plan, not a primary target

Recently, I laid out my reasoning for why I believe Jimmy Garoppolo is a much less appealing quarterback option for the New York Jets than Derek Carr.

My main argument is that Garoppolo has been a beneficiary of great surroundings in San Francisco while Carr has been forced to overcome terrible surroundings with the Raiders. Because of this, it’s easier to picture Carr succeeding on a new team than Garoppolo. Carr has exceeded the expectations laid by his supporting cast while Garoppolo has only matched those expectations, failing to soar beyond them when the team needs it.

Sure, Carr and Garoppolo may have similar stats if you take one glance at the box score (Garoppolo’s might actually be better depending on what you’re looking at), but it’s crucial to contextualize those stats.

Garoppolo has been buoyed by elite defenses, sturdy offensive lines, dynamic weapons, and a tremendous coach who excels at making life easy for the quarterback with masterful scheming. Garoppolo consistently profits off huge bundles of YAC on wide-open throws.

Carr has dealt with terrible defenses, a nonstop carousel of lackluster coaches, and, over the past few years, brutal offensive line play. Yet, he has produced similarly to Garoppolo.

Switch Carr and Garoppolo’s supporting casts and I think Carr would outperform Garoppolo’s accomplishments in San Francisco while Garoppolo would fall well short of what Carr did with the Raiders.

That brings us to Ryan Tannehill, who I view as a clone of Garoppolo as it pertains to his viability for the Jets.

Tannehill is generating more and more discussion as a Jets quarterback option due to New York’s hiring of Todd Downing as their passing game coordinator. Downing worked with Tannehill in Tennessee over the past four seasons. To boot, the Jets’ run game coordinator is Keith Carter, who also worked with Tannehill over the past four seasons.

On New York’s list of potential quarterback options, Tannehill belongs in the second tier with Garoppolo. Both players are nowhere near as appealing of an option as Carr or Aaron Rodgers and should only be viewed as fallback options if the Jets fail to acquire Carr or Rodgers.

Tannehill lands in the second tier of options for the same reason as Garoppolo: He’s a quarterback who lives up to expectations but is not a team-lifter. Tannehill can capitalize on what his supporting cast creates for him but has not shown the ability to go much further than that.

Like Garoppolo, Tannehill boasts box-score stats that might lead you to believe he is on the same level as Carr. But, also like Garoppolo, Tannehill’s appeal dwindles when you start to contextualize things. This is contrary to Carr, whose appeal increases when you add context.

There are a lot of metrics that suggest Tannehill is just as much of a beneficiary of his surroundings as Garoppolo.

Ryan Tannehill’s metrics suggest he can manage the game but is not a team-lifter

In 2022, Tannehill produced a passer rating of 138.9 on throws that were “wide open” (5+ yards of separation from nearest defenders), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. This ranked third-best out of 33 qualified quarterbacks.

But on all throws that were not wide open, Tannehill had an 85.9 passer rating, which ranked 18th. Tannehill’s 53.0-point drop-off between his wide open passer rating and his non-wide open passer rating was the third-largest margin in the NFL. He trailed only Justin Fields and Marcus Mariota and was one spot ahead of Kenny Pickett.

Not great company for a veteran quarterback who the Jets would be counting on to break a 12-year playoff drought.

It was the same deal in 2021. Tannehill was third in wide open passer rating at 128.4 but 24th in non-wide open passer rating at 78.9 (drop-off of 49.5 points).

These numbers scream “system quarterback”. It’s nice that Tannehill excels at capitalizing on the easy throws – and that trait does make him a reliable starting quarterback who can manage the game well – but the quarterbacks who make their teams better are the ones who make plays even when the situation isn’t perfect. Look no further than Carr, who ranked top 10 in passer rating on non-wide open throws in three of the past four seasons.

Tannehill’s enormous reliance on play action is another signal that he was propped up by the system in Tennessee.

According to Pro Football Focus, in 2022, Tannehill averaged 6.0 more yards per attempt on play action passes versus non-play action passes, which was the largest disparity in the NFL.

This was nothing new. In all four of his seasons with the Titans, Tannehill had one of the top six largest disparities between his play action Y/A and his non-play action Y/A. This suggests that Tannehill benefited heavily from the attention that Derrick Henry demanded.

Henry’s presence is the root of another pressing concern for Tannehill: his low volume of pass attempts.

Tannehill only averaged 29.2 pass attempts per game as a starter for the Titans, which is very low for a starting quarterback in the modern NFL. It placed Tannehill 29th out of the 31 quarterbacks to start at least 30 games since 2019.

The man one spot behind Tannehill? That would be Garoppolo, who was asked to throw 28.6 passes per game over this span. Both quarterbacks have enjoyed the luxury of a fantastic run game to take pressure off their shoulders.

Carr is averaging 34.9 passes per game in his career. He’s been trusted to carry a much heavier load. Part of Carr’s passing volume is also due to the consistently bad defenses he has played with, which have forced him to air it out in late-game situations where Tannehill and Garoppolo would be handing the ball off to ice a low-scoring win. Carr is yet to enjoy a situation where he does not have to put the team on his back every week.

Tannehill and Garoppolo’s playoff track records affirm their status as game-managing quarterbacks. When it mattered most, their teams made a concerted effort to avoid putting the ball in their hands. Tannehill and Garoppolo are each averaging only 22.0 pass attempts per game in their playoff careers, which is an unthinkable number in today’s game. Tannehill threw for 150.8 yards per game over five playoff appearances while Garoppolo threw for 160.3 yards per game over six appearances.

It’s difficult to compare them to Carr in this department since Carr has only played one playoff game (2021 Wild Card vs. Bengals), but in that game, the Raiders trusted Carr to throw the ball 54 times and he completed 29 of those passes for 310 yards, bringing the Raiders within nine yards of tying or winning the game at the end of the fourth quarter. For comparison, Tannehill’s playoff-best is 220 yards and Garoppolo’s is 232.

When you take everything into account, it’s hard not to think there is a very real chance Carr has untapped potential that will be unlocked if he gets the chance to play in a better situation, a la Matthew Stafford. The same cannot be said for Tannehill and Garoppolo, who have already revealed their ceilings.

The Jets should keep Tannehill on the back burner, but Carr and Rodgers come first

If the Jets do not land Carr or Rodgers, Garoppolo and Tannehill would be perfectly fine fallback options, so long as they could be had on affordable short-term deals. They are proven game managers who can capitalize on what’s presented to them and produce at a high level if the situation around them is ideal. The Jets likely would have made the playoffs with Garoppolo or Tannehill in 2022.

But can the Jets win a championship with Garoppolo or Tannehill? I severely doubt it.

Can the Jets win one with Carr? I think they can.

I certainly don’t find it likely that Carr would hoist a Lombardi in green, but I think Carr has a far better shot of doing it than Garoppolo or Tannehill, who have not gotten it done despite having many chances on great teams. Carr has never had a team close to as good as what Garoppolo and Tannehill have worked with. The Jets would give Carr his first chance to work with a supporting cast of that caliber.

Garoppolo and Tannehill should be viewed as stopgap options who can push the Jets to a short-term leap that moves them one step closer to legitimate title contention. They won’t get the Jets to the promised land themselves, but they can link the Jets to the promised land by helping to establish New York as a stable organization and desirable destination.

However, with Carr and Rodgers on the market, a stopgap quarterback should not be on the first tier of the wishlist. Possessing a talented roster that features numerous studs who are still on their rookie contracts, the Jets are entering a prime window to compete for a championship. By acquiring Carr or Rodgers, the Jets could have a chance to win it all within the next two seasons.

If the Jets settle for someone other than Carr or Rodgers, they will not have a chance to win a title in the immediate future, and by the time they (hopefully) find a legitimate franchise quarterback in another year or two, their window could close as many of their young stars begin reaching extension time.

Bringing in Carr or Rodgers is the goal for New York. Yes, Carr is in that first tier with Rodgers while Garoppolo and Tannehill are far behind them. Don’t be fooled by their similar stats at first glance: Carr is significantly more appealing than Garoppolo or Tannehill. It becomes clear when you contextualize their performances and focus on how much value they added to their teams relative to the expectations.

Garoppolo and Tannehill should not be considered by the Jets unless they endure the gut-wrenching scenario of failing to land Carr or Rodgers.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
9 months ago

Carr is alone on my first tier. I’m not in the camp that believes Rodgers makes the Jets a SB contender, and even if he did, if I’m being honest, I would enjoy a Jets championship a little bit less we needed Rodgers to deliver it. Its hard to think of him as anything other than a Packer, and thus a mercenary. I don’t have the same issue with Carr.

Let’s talk about a scenario in which Aidan Richardson falls to the Jets at 13, or Stroud falls to like 9 or so, and the Jets can trade up. Is that Tier 2? In that case, I still would prefer Carr was signed to the Jets, but I think I’m taking our next QB. And if the Jets miss out on Carr, I don’t think Tannehill in ’23 with one of those guys in waiting is a bad scenario at all, and one who’s timing is not likely to run up against the extensions for last year’s rookies.

For those that are thinking “but we have to draft a tackle at 13,” regardless of whether there is a QB to be had or not, I don’t think that’s true. There will be plenty of quality options still available at 43, and even 74. Hell, walter football has Broderick Jones ranked seventh in its tackle ratings (and incidentally, JMS 3rd among centers), so I really hope the Jets go with BPA with #13.

9 months ago

You laid it out nicely, Carr & Rogers first, but I don’t think they are getting either one of those. The thing I’m weighing in my mind, is Rogers or Tannehill. Yep, I’ve lost it, but Rogers will cost picks and lots of cash. Do we want to do that only to find he’s disinterested come November?

Here’s an honest question, if the Jets had Tannehill last season do they make the playoffs? I say yes. Can they win a Super Bowl with him? I say yes BUT…the D has to be better. I may have rose colored glasses but as I watched the playoff and SB, I kept thinking that Jets are not that far away from being able to compete with these teams.

I’ve accepted it won’t be Rogers or Carr, so I’m looking at other options. I just don’t see how Carr doesn’t sign with New Orleans. The division STINKS, they play inside a min of 9 games, and they also have a young WR playmaker and top RB. I also don’t see Rogers leaving GB. He started to build chemistry with those guys late last season, that division isn’t great and I think it makes most sense for him to stay there.

So, for me, it’s Tannehill or Jimmy.

9 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

I disagree with the Carr to New Orleans scenario. While it’s possible, there is a lot for them to be done to just get under the cap, let alone to make a deal with Carr. So he is my number 1 target.

The cost of Rodgers really makes him unattractive with all the drama. If we go that route, Super Bowl is must win because the contract will set us behind.

I like tannehill as a second option because I can’t imagine his cost will be too high and he will be a game manager like you stated Michael. Jimmy G will be an expensive game manager. Just one man’s opinion

9 months ago
Reply to  dudizt

I agree about Jimmy being a game manager, I don’t mind expensive as long as he’s good at it. Game managers have won Super Bowls.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jets71