Five quarterbacks who can follow in Ryan Tannehill's footsteps as Comeback Player of the Year in 2020

When it came to the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year for the 2019 NFL season, Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans was the easy choice. Just one year ago, the Miami Dolphins traded him to the Titans to serve as Marcus Mariota's backup. Instead, he ended up taking over the starting job and leading the Titans to the AFC Championship game.

The Titans started off the season 2-4 with Mariota under center, and head coach Mike Vrabel made the big decision to give Tannehill a chance as the starter in Week 7. He ended up winning 10 out of the next 13 games, and threw for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. Tannehill completed 70.3 percent of his passes in the regular season, averaged a league-best 9.6 yards per attempt and led the NFL with a 117.5 passer rating. 

After having lost his starting job in Miami, Tannehill didn't let the next opportunity pass him by, and because of that, he's now expected to sign a lucrative contract extension this offseason. Tannehill's comeback as a post-hype sleeper quarterback was one of the best narratives of the 2019 season.

Will there be a quarterback in 2020 who can accomplish what Tannehill did in 2019? Is there a signal-caller that has been written off in the court of public opinion, but could have a career year this upcoming season after experiencing a change of scenery? Let's take a look at five players who could turn their careers around in 2020. 

Teddy Bridgewater

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With Drew Brees returning for another season and the New Orleans Saints reportedly eyeing Taysom Hill as the future under center, it appears Bridgewater's time in New Orleans is over. The former first-round pick has proven he's fully recovered from the devastating leg injury he suffered in 2016, and he is expected to generate plenty of interest on the open market this offseason. He's only 27-years-old by the way! 

When Brees went down with a hand injury against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2, it appeared the Saints were going to lose some ground in the race for the NFC's top seed in the postseason. Instead, Bridgewater stepped in and won all five of his starts while Brees rested up. During those five games, he threw nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. Even though the Saints' offense revolves around Brees at quarterback, New Orleans did not miss a beat with Bridgewater under center. Bridgewater is clearly a starter in this league, and unlike Tannehill in 2019, he will probably get the chance to start immediately in 2020 instead of having to wait for another chance. With Brees coming back, the Saints aren't going to necessarily regret letting Bridgewater go, but he has the potential to take the right team deep into the postseason if given the opportunity. 

Andy Dalton

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The "Red Rifle's" time with the Cincinnati Bengals is likely over. With the No. 1 overall pick, it would be unwise for the Bengals not to select former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, but Dalton's days in Cincy were already numbered. After the Bengals fell to 0-8, first-year head coach Zac Taylor made the decision to bench Dalton for rookie Ryan Finley. It didn't seem to help, as the Bengals lost three more games before Taylor turned back to Dalton.

Dalton is very similar to Tannehill. He hasn't necessarily been bad during his career in Cincinnati, as he owns several franchise records and has thrown for 31,594 yards, 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions in 133 career games. The Bengals are just a bad team and Dalton had to lead this squad without his No. 1 wide receiver in A.J. Green this past season. Dalton isn't technically a free agent, but the belief is that the Bengals will either trade or release him in the coming months. Either way, it's pretty likely that he's going to be on a new team in 2020 -- and possibly serving as a backup like Tannehill did for the Titans. Maybe a change of scenery would be great for the 32-year-old. 

Josh Rosen

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I feel so bad for Rosen. He's being written off as a bust even though he's had to play on two of the worst teams in the league during his short career. As a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals, he completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14 games, as Arizona finished with the worst record in the league and purged the entire coaching staff after just one season. Rosen then had to go through all of the Kyler Murray drama, where the team that drafted him less than a calendar year ago tried to pretend like they were confident in his abilities while everyone else knew Murray was going to be taken No. 1 overall. Even after Rosen escaped that poisonous situation, he ended up with another first-year head coach with the Dolphins -- a team who appeared to be orchestrating one of the most egregious tanks in NFL history through the early part of the 2019 season. 

In six games, Rosen completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 567 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. He and Ryan Fitzpatrick took turns starting at quarterback as the Dolphins limped to a 5-11 record and earned the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They are another team expected to take a quarterback in the first round -- and while Dolphins general manager Chris Grier expects Fitzpatrick to stay in Miami next season -- we don't know what will happen with Rosen. The former No. 10 overall pick could be on the move again, and he might finally get the chance to be a part of an organization not run by a first-year head coach that possesses decent talent. Don't count Rosen out just yet.

Marcus Mariota

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Yes, the player Tannehill replaced this season could end up being the Tannehill of 2020. The former No. 2 overall pick has spent all five NFL seasons with the Titans, and his career has been marred with inconsistencies and injuries. Mariota had an incredible second year in the league back in 2016, when he threw for a career-high 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions. He hasn't been able to match that production since, however. Mariota also still hasn't been healthy for a full 16-game season, and he was playing some of his worst football in 2019 before Tannehill took over. In seven games this season, Mariota completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,203 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. 

Now an unrestricted free agent, it seems more likely that Mariota will secure a backup gig instead of the opportunity to take over immediately with a new franchise. Mariota clearly has talent, but he needs a change of scenery and a staff that can help him develop into the best NFL quarterback possible. He's only 26, so he will have some suitors on the open market. 

P.J. Walker

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USATSI

That's right, the favorite to win the first XFL MVP award could find himself back in the NFL in 2020. If you've kept up with the XFL, you understand that Walker is basically the Patrick Mahomes of the league. He's the XFL's leading passer, as he has thrown for 748 yards, 10 touchdowns, and just one interception -- he has also led the Houston Roughnecks to a 3-0 record. Walker attended Temple University, where he found success under current Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. He left college as Temple's all-time leader in completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and total offense. Walker would end up going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. He spent two years on the Colts' practice squad and was released in August of 2019.

It's interesting because Andrew Luck is actually the one who brought Walker to the attention of his father, who serves as the commissioner of the XFL. He hasn't played in an NFL regular-season game, but if he continues to dominate the league, there's no doubt that someone will want to give him a chance. From what I've seen in three games, he can definitely make some of those special throws we usually only see on Sundays. 

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