To paraphrase the late George Allen, the future is now for the Tennessee Titans.
By moving on from Ryan Tannehill and naming rookie Will Levis their starting quarterback, beginning with Sunday’s trip to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee (3-5) is acknowledging what became clear during its last two games.
Levis gives the Titans their best chance to win while, at the same time, allowing them to start his developmental clock. There will be games when Levis rushes, throws and makes terrible mistakes, but he’s shown more than enough to inherit the keys to the family car.
“Nothing in this life is ever going to come easy,” he said. “And when you hit that bump in the road, know that’s an opportunity to get better. Just keep a positive mindset about things sometimes when I get down. It’s a good way to bring me back to base.”
Levis threw four touchdown passes in his first start, a Week 8 win over Atlanta, and played well in a 20-16 loss at Pittsburgh in Week 9. He went 22 of 39 for 262 yards with an endgame interception after driving the team from its 15 to the Steelers’ 19.
His ability to push the ball down the field and play with poise behind one of the shakier offensive lines in the league has impressed neutral observers, even ones who were skeptical of his ability to be ready for starting duty so soon.
“Will has done some good things obviously,” said Tannehill, who vows to be the best resource he can be for him. “He came in and played well.”
Levis’ passer rating through two games is 96.4, averaging more than 12 yards per completion. By contrast, Tannehill averages 11.5 yards per completion in six games with a QB rating of 71.9.
There are no questions surrounding Tampa Bay’s quarterback. Still, Baker Mayfield isn’t considered a long-term solution for a franchise trying to figure out its way after Tom Brady gave it three seasons and a Super Bowl title following the 2020 season.
Mayfield played well last week in a 39-37 loss at Houston, hitting 21 of 30 attempts for 265 yards and two touchdowns. His 14-yard strike to Cade Otton with 46 seconds left gave the Buccaneers (3-5) a 37-33 lead, but their secondary quickly allowed a 75-yard drive and a game-losing touchdown with six seconds remaining.
Former Tampa Bay great Ronde Barber indulged in some swipes at the defensive backfield after C.J. Stroud torched them for an NFL-rookie record 470 yards and five touchdowns.
“To me, this was an embarrassing watch,” Barber said during the 33rd Team podcast with former NFL MVP Rich Gannon. “They look like the worst secondary in football.”
Through eight games, Tampa Bay has allowed the fifth-most passing yards in the league with 2,235. Opponents are averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, worse than any other pass defense in the NFL except for Denver at 7.6.
The Titans own a 10-2 lead in their all-time series with the Buccaneers, winning the last three matchups.