Ryan Tannehill says he doesn't think it's his job to mentor rookie QB Malik Willis

·3-min read

At some point, a veteran quarterback will figure out the right answer — the one that will pacify everyone — to the predictable question when his team drafts a quarterback.

Here's what happens practically every year. Team drafts a quarterback. Veteran starter is asked about mentoring the rookie. The veteran tells the truth, and social media rips him for it.

It's not fair that Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was trending on social media shortly after he was asked about mentoring third-round pick Malik Willis.

"I don't think it's my job to mentor him. If he learns from me along the way, that's a great thing," Tannehill told the Nashville media.

That ignited a debate everyone has about the same time every year.

Ryan Tannehill speaks his mind about mentoring a rookie

Tannehill wasn't being rude when he said what he did.

It's just not part of his job description to mentor someone there to take his job.

Tannehill has a lot on his plate. As the quarterback of a playoff team, he gets way more credit or blame than he deserves based on how the Titans are doing. He plays a complex position and doesn't have too many years to do it. He also has to worry about others trying to get his job. There are only 32 of them.

Tannehill said as part of his answer, "We're competing against each other," and he's not really wrong.

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been the team's starter since he took the job from Marcus Mariota. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been the team's starter since he took the job from Marcus Mariota. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Others have said they won't mentor rookies

Willis should want Tannehill's job. If he didn't, he probably isn't the competitor the Titans thought when they took him with the 86th pick. Tannehill knows that. Everyone does.

Willis was considered to be a first-round prospect for much of the lead-up to the draft, but slipped to the third round. The Titans pounced when he fell to them. Tannehill is 33 years old, will be 34 before the 2022 season is done, and the Titans don't want to get caught without a replacement option when it's time to move on from Tannehill.

The Titans weren't wrong to draft Willis, an exciting prospect who can develop into a starter. Tannehill wasn't wrong to politely say he didn't plan to mentor Willis. The Titans list 24 coaches on their website. One or more of them will be charged with bringing Willis along.

When Brett Favre said he didn't plan to mentor Aaron Rodgers more than a decade ago, that led to every quarterback being asked about it. Veterans like Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have had some version of the same answer: They have a job and it's not to mentor a rookie. It's also fair to point out that in no other walk of life would someone, whose very lucrative job can be taken at practically any time, be expected to lift up someone who was just hired to replace them.

For an NFL quarterback, who already has untold responsibilities, being a mentor is expected by some. Tannehill will presumably be a good teammate to Willis. He just won't coach him. The Titans pay others to do that job.