Will Levis Is The Titans' Starter As Mike Vrabel Does The Right Thing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While all sorts of fans and commentators read tea leaves and found paths for Mike Vrabel to wedge Ryan Tannehill back into the starting lineup, the coach told the veteran quarterback early Tuesday that he was now Will Levis’ backup.

Later he informed the team that Levis is the starter and then shared it with the media, ending speculation heading into Week 10’s game at Tampa Bay as Tannehill becomes healthy enough to become part of the mix again after two games missed with a high right ankle sprain.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons with quarterback Will Levis (8) during the third quarter at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.
  Will Levis celebrates with DeAndre Hopkins/ © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Levis had an outstanding four-touchdown debut in a win over Atlanta and stood in against a tough pass rush in Pittsburgh, showing more than enough for the Titans to move forward with their quarterback of the future at 3-5.

While they may somehow hold out hope of finding a way back into playoff contention -- they are currently 14th in the AFC where seven teams qualify for the playoffs -- getting Levis experience and a comfort level is now a major feature of the remaining nine games of the season.

And that should be the franchise's priority. 

Vrabel and Ran Carthon viewed him as the quarterback of the future when they traded up to the second pick of the second round on April 28. The door opened for him with Tannehill's injury and there is no reason for it to close based on what he's done, Tannehill's play when healthy this year and the status of the team.

The Titans have insufficient blocking for whoever is playing quarterback, but Levis is rugged and has the skills to evade some hits and to throw while under duress without being able to step into throws. His weapons are limited, but he showed a strong connection with three touchdowns to veteran DeAndre Hopkins in his first game and with Kyle Philips to a lesser degree against the Steelers.

Tim Kelly needs now to craft game plans to take advantage of Levis' quick release and big arm. 

Vrabel, Azeez Al-Shaair and Nick Westbrook-Ikine all answered questions about the transition on Tuesday, but it doesn't feel that big with how things were playing out before Tannehill was hurt and with Levis having started two games while Tannehill was unavailable.

Kuharsky megaphone"I don't expect Ryan to act any different, I don't expect Will to act any different," Al-Shaair said. "I'm not going to act any different toward either one of them."

That's as it should be.

Tannehill deserves a great deal of respect for his time served as the Titans' starter and ranks as the second-best guy to have filled the job in the Tennessee era to Steve McNair. More coming on him in a separate post.

But it's time for the next guy, a guy whose early returns provide hope that he may someday contend for a spot in the pantheon.

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