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  • Writer's pictureFred Wheeler

Ryan Tannehill says it’s not “his job” to Mentor Rookie Malik Willis and He’s Not Wrong.

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

As soon as I heard that clip on the radio I could visualize the social media outrage that would be spewed on the bird, FacePlace, and, of course, sports radio. I was not disappointed.

And it goes on like that, for pages and pages. For most people, it boils down to either, and I'm paraphrasing here, "You (Tannehill) suck, your job is to do whatever I think you should" or "You suck, why would anyone want you to mentor them anyway?"

I find this mildly amusing because this is how people are. When you have no stake in what's going on it's easier to say that someone else should say or do the "right thing". When it's you being asked to do extra the answer is almost always "Not my problem" or *ahem* "Not my job."

I think that Ryan Tannehill is simply taking the attitude that much of America has in recent days and is saying "I'm not paid enough for this". Yes, yes, I'm well aware that as a professional athlete in the NFL he's making bank ($56M over the next two years) and that for the same paycheck the things people would (willingly) do would both amaze and disgust you.

He is not us though. Most Americans will have a working life of forty to fifty years; professional athletes, however, have a career that is much, MUCH shorter. NFL quarterbacks only average about 4.5 years, and while Tannehill has already more than doubled that number, he is nearing the end of a lucrative career, a career that I doubt very much anyone of you (or I) would give up until we were dragged, kicking and screaming, from the team facility.

But back to my point that Tannehill and much of America have decided that enough is enough with regards to being asked to do more. How many of you have been asked to train your replacement? I have and had it not been family (the business, not the replacement) I doubt I would have. Workers are asked to go above and beyond at virtually every job in this country and if they balk for even a second at having a new duty added to the already arm-long list of responsibilities their supervisor/coordinator/idiot-of-the-week is there to chide them with "You're not being a team player."

Employers do not care about their employees*. Read that again. The NFL especially does not care about its employees. Of the four major North American sports leagues, it's the only one without guaranteed contracts meaning a player can be cut and not be owed another dime by their former team.

They (the NFL) fought the case brought against them by former players claiming that they were not made aware of the dangers of professional football careers i.e. concussions/CTE. They ended up settling for $785 million dollars; but then they screwed that up as they used race-norming, a banned practice of using an individual's race or ethnicity to adjust test scores, to determine who would receive payments from the fund.

Yeah. That fiasco resulted in a lawsuit that cost the NFL another $1 billion (with a "B") in payments and another black eye for "The League".

Similarly, corporations, large or small, do not care about their employees. Disney, owners of ESPN, ABC, Hulu, and pretty much anything else they decide they want, decided it would be an awesome idea to replace huge swaths of their data systems employees with H1B employees from India who would be making 75-60% of the laid-off employees. Similar stories are all over the internet and they don't exactly take a high-level Google-Fu to find.

At the other end of the spectrum, in the service industry and in distribution centers, workers are constantly asked to do more with less because their managers and supervisors are desperate to make that extra quarterly bonus for keeping labor costs under "X" dollars. Or work an extra day. Or give up the vacation you scheduled and paid for six months ago**. Or . . .

OK, so these are pretty drastic examples, I admit that. But who hasn't been told that they were "not a team player" or that their "attitude was a problem" and then been told "don't make a rash decision" when you quit or been asked to come back as if nothing happened.

What happened with Tannehill has happened to millions of workers over the last few years and he responded in the same way that they responded. I'm OK with that. Being an NFL quarterback, potentially the most analyzed and criticized position in sports is hard, harder than anyone who has never done it will know, and the push to recognize the importance of mental health and of self-care tells me that people should know better, but simply cannot summon the empathy to put themselves in his shoes.

Could Ryan Tannehill have been more diplomatic? Yes, he could have. Could he have been more honest? No, he could not.

Ryan Tannehill doesn't need to be a mentor to Malik Willis, to teach him how to be an NFL quarterback because the Titans already have someone to do that, his name is Pat O'Hara and he was an NFL QB too. His position is the quarterback coach for the Tennessee Titans and that is who should be Willis' mentor.

*If it sounds like I'm venting about my job, I'm not. I like where I work and I actually like my bosses, they listen to me when I have something to say. I have, however worked at a lot of places that hire managers with IQs that are roughly room temperature because if they were asked to do work, they would botch it, it's called the Dilbert Principle, it's a real thing.

** This actually happened to me. I was told a week before my vacation that I "couldn't take (my) requested time off" because "We're having a sale that week". The company's name is the nemesis of one Wile E. Coyote.

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