Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis have ‘Any Given Sunday’ feel

Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis have 'Any Given Sunday' feel

Life imitates art: Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis (right) feels like the plot to Any Given Sunday.

Life imitates art: Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis (right) feels like the plot to Any Given Sunday.
Drawing: Getty

“Kid’s breathing down my neck.”

That’s a line from Cap Rooney — played by Dennis Quaid — in the 1999 cult classic “Any Given Sunday,” in which Rooney plays a beloved, yet old-and-injured quarterback that’s staring his on-field mortality in the face as the team is surging behind the play of “Steamin” Willie Beamen — played by Jamie Foxx — while he’s out with a bad back.

It could also be how 33-year-old Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill feels about Malik Willis, the 22-year-old QB that the Titans took in the third round with the 86th overall pick in last week’s NFL Draft.

Tannehill made headlines with this comment:

“I don’t think it’s my job to mentor [Willis],” Tannehill said. “But if he learns from me along the way, that’s a great thing.”

During that press conference, Tannehill went on to explain that he texted Willis after he was drafted, but that he was unaware that the team was selecting a player who some feel could be taking his job sooner than later. In case you forgot, the Titans had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they fell to the eventual AFC Champion Bengals in the Divisional Round, losing 19-16 in a game that featured 3 interceptions from… Tannehill.

“It’s a deep scar,” Tannehill explained, as he revealed that he needed therapy after the season. “Every time I closed my eyes I kind of re-watched the game. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep for weeks. I was in a dark place, and it took me a while, a lot of work to get out of it.

“I’ve worked through it, but therapy, talking to people, time helped. It took a lot of work to get through it.”

Ever since Tannehill showed up in Nashville, the Titans have made the playoffs. But, if you check the box scores from the games that ended each of Tennessee’s seasons, you’ll see that Tannehill’s touchdowns (4) match his interceptions (4). That’s probably why the team drafted a quarterback in the third round who many believed would come off the board in the first.

With quarterback being the most important position in the NFL, and sports for that matter, you would think that teams would have figured out how to draft them by now. They haven’t. Most of the time, it’s a total crapshoot. But, what we do know is that until Willis proves that he’s not the next face of the franchise, Tannehill will be looking over his shoulder.

It’s an unspoken rule in sports that veterans are supposed to mentor the young guys, especially in football. However, playing quarterback is something different. Much like in the movie Highlander, There can only be one, so helping the person who’s trying to take your job can be a slippery slope. And instead of giving us a cookie-cutter answer, Tannehill kept it real. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to help someone who could be your eventual replacement in a highly competitive workplace where millions are at stake. This is why the humor in this situation is so ironic, given that it’s somewhat playing out just like things did in the movies.

“C’mon, this is how it starts,” Cap Rooney told his coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) during a scene in which the quarterback is told to take it easy during practice. “Don’t bullshit me, Tony, I know what you’re talking about. I know you when your mind works. ‘Rest up, let the kid take a few games. You know you were great, but time marches on.”

By the end of the film, Cap Rooney and Willie Beamen have gained great respect for one another and eventually start working together. Rooney even gives his job to Beamen as he knows it’s the best decision for the team. It leads to a huge win. Let’s see if the Titans follow the same script.

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