On the surface, Ryan Tannehill has it pretty good.
He makes an average of nearly $30 million per year playing quarterback for the Titans. He’s in the middle of a four-year, $118 million contract with $91 million in guaranteed money.
Off the football field, he has a beautiful wife and a seemingly beautiful life.
On the field, he’s not Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow. But Tannehill is an above-average player at his position who has won more games (72) than he has lost (59) and who has more touchdown passes (199) than interceptions (102).
Yet there was Tannehill on Tuesday opening a vein while speaking to reporters during an offseason media availability, revealing that he’s still reeling from the Titans’ 19-16 playoff loss to the Bengals and his poor play in that game, and that he sought therapy in an effort to deal with it.
We in the media and as fans so often make assumptions that the professional athletes we both cover and watch are unaffected, that the millions of dollars they make can ease the pain that comes with failure on the field.
We make assumptions that these athletes don’t care as much as the fans who live and die with their teams.
Yet the reality we sometimes have difficulty grasping is that the mental health struggle for even the highest-paid, highest-profile athletes is as real as it is for the rest of us attempting to power through the daily difficulties life deals us.
If you don’t know Tannehill — and I don’t know him other than to have interviewed him in group settings — it would be easy to assume that, because of the multiple millions he makes and the seemingly perfect life he leads, he’s immune from that struggle.
But on Tuesday, Tannehill was very transparent in letting us know he’s not, referring to that playoff loss five months ago as “a deep scar” and adding he reached “a dark place’’ as a result.
“Every time I closed my eyes I kind of rewatched the game,’’ Tannehill told reporters. “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.”
Professional athletes conceding to weakness is not a very common event. When they do, it’s somewhat refreshing because of their honesty and because it lets the so-called working class realize they are not alone.
Golfer Scottie Scheffler, after he won the Masters in April, revealed he woke up the morning of the final round and sobbed uncontrollably, telling his wife he didn’t think he could handle the pressure of trying to close out the tournament and wondered aloud whether he was “ready’’ for such a big moment.
Scheffler’s wife talked him out of his emotional breakdown over breakfast, and he went out and captured the green jacket that afternoon, his first major championship.
Tannehill had three damaging interceptions in that loss to the Bengals in the AFC divisional playoff round, and all of them still haunt him. For Tannehill and the Titans, the loss was a crusher considering Tennessee had earned the No. 1-overall seed and home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
After spending six mediocre years in Miami, compiling a 42-46 win-loss record with no playoff berths, Tannehill is 30-13 as the Titans’ starter, but just 2-3 in the postseason, including losses in his past three games.
But it was that loss to the Bengals, who went on to play in the Super Bowl, that gnawed at Tannehill so much that he sought help. Tannehill said he has sought therapy the past, but “this is the first time that I absolutely needed it to pull me out of a dark space.”
Tannehill’s offseason took a turbulent turn during last week’s draft, when the Titans traded No. 1 receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles and used the pick they received to draft rookie receiver Treylon Burks.
“I was shocked,’’ Tannehill said.
The Titans threw Tannehill another curveball in the third round, when they selected Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.
Tannehill then drew criticism when he said of Willis: “I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him. But if he learns from me along the way, that’s a great thing.”
On Wednesday, ESPN reported the Titans explored the market for Rodgers and Deshaun Watson during this offseason before settling on drafting Willis as Tannehill’s possible heir apparent.
Life isn’t always as perfect as it appears — even for those who seemingly have it all.