Ryan Tannehill as you probably already know, is the new starting QB for the Miami Dolphins. Announced yesterday by head coach Joe Philbin, Tannehill will become the 17th quarterback since Dan Marino to start. Barring injury in the final two weeks of the pre-season. Knock on wood. The question now becomes will Joe Philbin pull the QB if the season doesn’t fall into place?
Consider this, as pointed out by Armando Salguero on the Miami Herald webpage, the Dolphins are one of the top three worst salary cap teams in the NFL. Makes you wonder where the money is being spent when there is so little talent on the team. That’s another entirely different article. With Tannehill named the starter, Matt Moore the new back-up and David Garrard in limbo, the Dolphins will be heading into the season with an unproven QB and not a lot of support behind him.
The wide-receivers are widely considered the worst unit in the league and despite the fact they have said it motivates them to prove other wrong, so far they have done nothing to prove anyone but right. Even un-drafted rookie Jeff Fuller has moved up to third on the depth chart. The corp wasn’t very good when Chad Johnson was on the team and they sure are surely worse without him. That alone says a lot.
Bringing this up is for one reason only. The guy who is going to be throwing the ball to these guys. Tannehill has 19 career college starts and one pre-season start under his belt. Don’t get me wrong, the kid has looked better in my eyes than what I have seen in Matt Moore thus far and David Garrard simply can’t be counted on for now bringing up another question as to whether he will make the roster at all. Something I spoke openly about three weeks ago on Finsradio.net.
Thus far, the Dolphins have done more to rile up the masses of fans against them than they have instilling confidence that they know what they are doing. First unit blowouts in the first two pre-season games has done little provide the fans hope. In fact, the only thing exciting thus far has been the entertainment of HBO’s Hard Knocks. Which by the way airs tonight.
When the season kicks off Tannehill will become the 17th starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins since Dan Marino‘s retirement and the first rookie to start a regular season game since Marino took over mid-way through the 1983 season. Indications are that the Dolphins offense is going to struggle this year. Mightily. The offensive line is a patchwork on the right side anchored by 2nd round selection Jonathan Martin who has looked “not God awful” as Joe Philbin says but most disagree with. At the guard spot, former Browns lineman Artis Hicks is not winning over fans who questioned the signing in the first place.
The Dolphins could surprise a lot of people but if history tells us anything, lowering the expectations for the season may be in order. So what does happen if the Dolphins are four games in and haven’t won with Tannehill at QB? Do they bench him in favor of Moore, Garrard, or Devlin? To what degree will that do more harm for the young QB than help the team for would amount to an already lost season? What if Tannehill isn’t the issue?
In my mind and from the cheap seat I sit in, the decision to start Tannehhill should be no different than the decisions by the Colts, Redskins, and Browns, to start Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, III, and Brandon Weedon. You made the decision now let the season ride on his shoulders. The loss you take this year will only put Ryan Tannehill in a better position next year.
There is no doubt that the Dolphins are going to take a few lumps. O.k. a lot of lumps. Especially if the defense continues to play the way they have lately. To say that Ryan T. is being thrown to the wolves is an understatement. At the current pace, he is being thrown to Winterfell Direwolves. (Game of Thrones reference).
Tannehill has shown a maturity level that many questioned when he was drafted. He is showing smart decisions and has emerged as a leader that the players seem to be behind, but this is the NFL and losing takes a bigger toll than anything else. How will this team rally behind him when they are winless or losing badly will be played out in front of our eyes.
Of course, who knows, history could be made and we could see a repeat of the Ben Roethlisberger rookie season that everyone thought was impossible. For now, hopes and dreams aside, Joe Philbin’s commitment to Tannehill can not be a “until we see how things are progressing” type of decision. It needs to be a permanent one. The Dolphins are in bed with the west coast offense, Joe Philbin, Mike Sherman and the 4-3 defense with Kevin Coyle. Their future rests on a successful turnaround of a lumbering franchise and in the middle of that bed is a quarterback drafted 8th overall.
The decision to move forward with that rookie must be the long term plan not a wait and see short term evaluation. Win or lose, Tannehill needs to play the season. Fans need to accept that this road is a long term decision with likely short term negative outcomes. Coaches need to realize that their jobs are not on the line this year so staying the course is the best long term answer for this position.
When this season is over, the only person who stands to lose his job is GM Jeff Ireland and even that is premature. But if he did, there are quite a few fans ready to shout their approval. Yet Ireland too is responsible for Ryan Tannehill. He drafted him.
In my opinion, as non-consequential as that may be, the decision to start Ryan Tannehill is short of a bold move. It’s a smart move based on the current options that are presented. I like Matt Moore but his inability to consistently play at a higher level makes him a lesser option. He is being outplayed by the rookie and I think that outweighs the fact that he has veteran time on his side. David Garrard of course would be the better option, but Garrard isn’t healthy and his injury, his freak pool injury, has paved the way for the Dolphins to go with the youth.
Overall, I like the move but with the caveat that they stick with him through the season win or lose. The only way he gets better is by suffering defeat as much as he enjoys any success. There is as much value to be found in losing than winning from that position. Ideally and hopefully, there will be some magical spark and Tannehill finds more of the winning than the other.
While there is a degree of excitement surrounding this decision, specifically for me is the fact that unlike Luck or RGIII, Tannehill has earned the opportunity to start. He has had to fight, claw, and perform. He wasn’t handed anything. That brought out the competition. There still is a degree of caution. He is young, he will make mistakes and he will likely make them more than once. When this season has ended, hopefully we will see a different QB than the one that starts in September. John Elway, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, all started early and had horrible first seasons. Where will Tannehill fit after this one and the ones that follow.
For the fans who are on the ledge and those of us closing in on it, let’s hope Tannehill “Is who we think he is”. For those that already jumped, let’s hope there is a trampoline at the bottom that bounces you back up. The good news is this. Regardless of whether Tannehill is the next great QB or just another busted first round pick, the Dolphins will find out the answer much sooner than later.