Titans' Malik Willis: Ryan Tannehill's Mentor Comment Was 'Never Anything Negative'

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 13, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAR 02: Malik Willis #QB16 of the Liberty Flames speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 2, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis doesn't appear upset that starting signal-caller Ryan Tannehill told reporters last week that it wasn't his job to mentor him.

Paul Kuharsky @PaulKuharskyNFL

Malik Willis on Ryan Tannehill’s comment about it not being the veteran’s job to mentor the rookie. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Titans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Titans</a>. <a href="https://t.co/aXfJBwAvV4">pic.twitter.com/aXfJBwAvV4</a>

"Man, we chopped it up," Willis said. "It was never anything negative. Ryan's a good dude, man. Like I said, he had us over the house. Everything's cool, man."

On May 3, Tannehill spoke with reporters four days after Tennessee selected Willis with a Round 3 pick.

Paul Kuharsky @PaulKuharskyNFL

Tannehill stance on mentoring Willis. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Titans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Titans</a>. <a href="https://t.co/fAnUdcediH">pic.twitter.com/fAnUdcediH</a>

"We're competing against each other, we're watching the same tape, we're doing the same drills," Tannehill said. "I don't think it's my job to mentor him, but if he learns from me along the way, then that's a great thing."

The 33-year-old Tannehill has been the Titans' quarterback since taking over the QB1 role from Marcus Mariota during the 2019 season.

He won Comeback Player of the Year honors that season and has helped lead Tennessee to three straight playoff appearances and two consecutive AFC South titles.

Reaction to Tannehill's comments varied from criticism to much ado about nothing.

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner and ex-NFL safety Ryan Clark didn't like Tannehill's thoughts.

Kurt Warner @kurt13warner

I will never understand the “I’m not here to mentor the next guy” mentality… so for all you young QBs that need a mentor, DM me &amp; Ill be that guy, happy to help in any way I can!

Ryan Clark @Realrclark25

I see Ryan Tannehill is on his “Not my job to mentor” energy. It’s not, but man it makes you a good teammate. You can win without your QB being a good teammate but better for the team if he is. What a leader! Guess the Steelers’ DBs had it all wrong taking time w/ rookies &amp; 💩

Warner has notably been in the mentor position, as he held down the QB1 spot for the first nine games of the 2004 New York Giants' season before franchise signal-caller Eli Manning took over and held the job for 15 years.

Others backed Tannehill, including NFL analyst Ross Tucker, who turned the statement around to make his point:

Ross Tucker Podcast @RossTuckerPod

“How ridiculous would it sound if Ryan Tannehill had said ‘my number one job is to mentor Malik Willis’ when he’s the starting QB of the #1 seed in the AFC?” <a href="https://t.co/h3wotPi99G">pic.twitter.com/h3wotPi99G</a>

Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated also defended Tannehill and noted that at $29 million per year, Tannehill's primary concern shouldn't be mentorship:

"Tannehill has exactly the right attitude—for himself, for the Titans and even, in a way, for Willis.
"The Titans will pay Tannehill $29 million this year. I don’t know the going rate for a good mentor these days, but that seems high. Since Willis is, by almost every account, talented but raw, Tannehill is almost certainly going to be Tennessee’s starting quarterback this fall. Who wants a starting quarterback who is thinking about becoming a backup?"

Right, wrong or indifferent, Tannehill's comments appear to be water under the bridge based on Willis' remarks. Of more concern is building on a 12-5 season in which the Titans earned the AFC's No. 1 seed but fell to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round.

They'll have to do that without their top two wideouts from last year (A.J. Brown and Julio Jones), but Tennessee did add Robert Woods in free agency and Treylon Burks via the draft.