The Miami Dolphins quarterback situation has been the continual talk of camp, OTA’s, free agency, the draft, pretty much every season since Jay Fiedler was anointed Dave Wannstedts guy. This year, the media microscope is magnified ten times more. The center of that is the trio of David Garrard, Matt Moore, and rookie Ryan Tannehill. Yesterday, the rookie got his shot to play with the number 1′s. Not because it was his turn, but because he earned it.
Tannehill has impressed everyone from coaches to fans after his two day holdout. His play against the 2nd and 3rd team defenses finally gave him a 16 play shot with the first team unit. Most will want to look deep into those plays and dissect his ability or inability to impress. The reality is this. It doesn’t matter how good or bad he played in that first go around. What matters is that he has shown enough to get the chance.
When asked about the possibility of becoming the teams starter sooner rather than later, Tannehill calmly said, “I want to be the leader”. Tannehill went on to say that he is competing for the opportunity to be “the” guy in Miami. Most figure he will be the 3rd QB on the roster and that real battle lies above him where David Garrard and Matt Moore are receiving the 160 or so offensive reps a day this training camp.
Back on the “On the Fin Side” season wrap-up show on Finsradio.net, I very clearly stated during that April broadcast that Moore and Garrard are not competing for 1st place but rather their jobs. Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post said as much yesterday (sorry Ben but I got you on that one). With both of the top two QB’s possessing a contract that is not fully guaranteed, both veterans would have their salaries guaranteed fully if they are on the team come week 1. With Ryan’s game play not only improving but standing out, Joe Philbin may decide that Tannehill is just as good an option at number 2 than the loser of the battle at the top.
In which case, the Dolphins may have to make a tough decision and send one of those guys packing.
On the surface that seems like a bad situation but the truth is it should be a glaring endorsement of Tannehill’s progress and what the team expects from him. Consider the dynamics of where the team is heading and you really won’t ask the question should one of these guys be cut. If the Dolphins get off to a bad start and are sitting a 0-4 after the first month, do you try and reverse a season that for the most part is already lost by handing the team over to the loser of Garrard or Moore? Or do you hand the keys to the rookie and let the Ryan Tannehill era begin?
That same argument goes into play later in the season if the team is effectively eliminated from the playoffs. At some point, if you are not competing for a post-season birth then you have to see what Tannehill can do on Sundays. Otherwise you are entering next season with a QB who is still a rookie on the field.
About the only reason to keep one of the veterans as a back-up is the worry of injury to your starter. Should you lose one of those two players in the first month or even the second and your team is playing well and actually chasing a post-season birth, do you want to hand over that train to the kid for Texas? This will be the very issue the coaches will need to make by months end.
The roster is full of talented players who could use a year or two to truly develop. The NFL is not a place that allows teams to cull young stars outside of a practice team invitation. The final 53 man roster is so important that all players need to contribute in some way to the team on Sundays. The inactive list is usually reserved for players who don’t fit completely into that weeks gameplan or are injured. So keeping a 3rd QB on the roster takes away a valuable spot somewhere else.
Many fans will tend to lean on the side of caution, saying it’s better to have a proper proven QB as the back-up just in case the injury scenario takes a bite. Truthfully, I would personally agree with that unless that 2nd QB is not head and shoulders better than the guy you are keeping at three. In other words, if Ryan Tannehill proves that he is only slightly behind either David Garrard or Matt Moore then why keep three?
With all the bi-lines yet to be played out, there is no simple answer when it comes to the QB position and the final roster. It is something however that is going to be looked at a lot closer as we inch to the final weeks of pre-season and near the start of September’s opening weekend. It was a foregone conclusion that the battle between Garrard and Moore was the battle to watch in camp, now it very well may become a battle between one of those two and a rookie named Ryan Tannehill for that second spot. And possibly a veterans career in Miami.