Oct 27, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) gets to his knees after being sacked during the fourth quarter of their 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Tannehill’s Go – Go Go Problem


Telegraph -a system for transmitting messages from a distance along a wire, esp. one creating signals by making and breaking an electrical connection.  “news came from the outside world by telegraph

Then they invented the telephone and telephone wires and telegraph became something you read about in history class.

Telegraph - convey (an intentional or unconscious message), esp. with facial expression or body language.  “Ryan Tannehill is telegraphing the Dolphins plays”.

At first I didn’t believe it.  I was pretty certain that Ryan Tannehill’s use of the “Go No-Go” cadence was nothing more than a fantastical nuance of bitter journalists digging for something to rub into the open wound of losing.  I mean after all the Dolphins started the season 3-0 and it didn’t seem to be an issue then.

O.k. I’ll admit it.  I was wrong.  Yesterday I listened closely to Tannehill’s cadence and there was no question that he was indeed “telegraphing” the Dolphins plays.

GO – One go was simple.  The Dolphins were going to pass and sure enough, every single time the QB called out the word go and Mike Pouncey snapped the ball the Dolphins threw the ball.  They even tried to mask it with a play action or a fake end around.  But make no mistake when he said GO one time, they threw the ball or he took a sack.

GO – GO just as simple as the one GO only this time, they ran it.  That end around to Mike Wallace that netted a first down?  Yep…GO-GO despite the fake that they were going to pass it.

Even more humorous is when Tannehill is in shotgun formation and Mike Pouncey calls the cadence at the line…you guessed it…exact same thing.  Even if the Dolphins opt to run out of that formation.

Joe Philbin will tell you publicly that he isn’t concerned with the cadence and he defends the fact that the defense is not being tipped to their play calling.  I don’t buy into it.  Not at all.  After the first quarter was over and I finally realized that the GO, GO-GO, wasn’t A:  a nod to the 80′s girls band The Go-Go’s and B: isn’t a new countdown check for NASA’s rocket launches, I hunkered down and paid closer attention to how the Patriots reacted to the cadence.

Sorry Joe but it gave them some notice.  Say what you want but even a half-second tip-off is enough to change a players reaction.  I love having the opportunity to lean back on my playing days as an outside pass rushing LB and I would drool over the opportunity to get a read on a QB’s intentions.  If I’m at the line of scrimmage I no longer have to pay particular attention to the white knuckles of a TE who is leaning forward to shoot out of his stance at me or the pink skin of that same player leaning back in his stance to pass block.  Nope…I can listen to the chirping of a QB’s cadence.

Yes, a player can react in that split second between GO and GO-GO.  Furthermore, the Dolphins have ZERO third GO.  Which means that the defense is not going to jump off-sides…have you seen Miami draw anyone off-sides?  Have you seen a defense off-sides at all this year?  Maybe once.  There it was simple as day.  Tannehill said GO or GO-GO no variations of the two and each time the play was exactly what the cadence meant.

Now the defense still needs to react to where the play goes.  The cadence doesn’t tip off a lane or design.  It doesn’t tip off a pulling guard or charging fullback.  But consider this…the Dolphins running game this year has been close to atrocious.  If the defense knows that the play is a designed run by the time they are physically engaged with an offensive lineman then half of the battle is over with.  Now it’s a focus on the ball carrier.

Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 28 times this year and while protection has been horrid there is ZERO question for the defense as to what Tannehill is going to do.  Shotgun or under center he yells GO and it’s a pass.  The LB’s decision is no longer to watch for the running back and then determine pass or rush instead it’s drop back in coverage or blitz.  The DE doesn’t have to hold outside containment.  Let me repeat that because it’s very important…THE DE DOES NOT HAVE TO HOLD CONTAINMENT.  Why?  Because if it’s a pass he reacts to either the RB staying in to pick up the block or the RB releasing on a wheel route or flats pass.  If it’s a run he knows he has to contain the edge and doesn’t have to think.

If the reaction time for a defensive player is even remotely quick and let’s say for the sake of argument it takes 1.5 seconds to mentally process that cadence that’s still 1.5 seconds to determine what action you are going to take.  Here’s the kicker.  As the games have gone in the last four weeks, the defenses have played better than in the first part of the game.  Why?  Simple, our minds get tuned into certain audible sounds and we no longer have to think about what we hear.  We assimilate the sound immediately and our bodies react to that trained response.  Seriously.  Think about it.  How often do you hear something and can’t quite figure it out or how to react initially but as you hear it more and react the same way your motions are almost automatic.

The same is going on here.  Ryan Tannehill’s cadence is so poor that defenses can in fact key on it.  Safeties and cornerbacks won’t have the same reaction time as a LB or Dline but they don’t need to.  Their coverage is the same regardless.  I don’t buy into Joe Philbin’s response that it’s not a problem.  Regardless of whether it is a problem or not a problem as an NFL head coach you don’t want one single thing to possibly tip off your opponents.  Ask yourself this question…do you think an opposing team is more likely to read the lips of a coach calling in a play to his QB across the field or having the plays tipped off at the line of scrimmage?  Coaches feel the need to cover their mouths with a card despite the fact that most coaches can’t see across the field and sure as hell can’t audible their defense if they could…yet almost every coach is careful not to let that happen.

Joe Philbin is publicly content with acknowledging that it does happen and that he is not concerned.  A paltry rushing attack and 28 sacks begs to differ.

Tags: Joe Philbin Miami Dolphins Ryan Tannehill

  • Mario Ambrosio

    I’m speechless…….makes sense though…..explains alot!

  • FinFan68

    Great post. I have been saying this since week one. Glad I’m not the only one who sees the issues. The play-calling has not been stellar but this cadence thing is the main reason the offense looks stagnant at times. Coaches and players do prep work and film-study every week. They know the tendencies based on formation and personnel. They know what the tendencies are based on down and distance. The cadence makes the play diagnosis much, much quicker. They can now completely ignore play action. The LBs and safeties can crash the line without fear of anyone getting behind them if they know it is not a pass. I have not seen a single deviation from those two cadence calls all season. There is no drawing anybody off-sides and I don’t remember any kind of “hard count” or silent count of any kind. I did notice once that he said it and the ball wasn’t snapped and Tannehill made adjustments and then said it again and the ball was snapped, followed immediately by the predictable play. Last week there was a designed QB run from the shotgun with no backs. I knew the play before the ball reached Tannehill’s hands. It was successful but only because the LBs were lined up too far outside. They actually reacted well (based solely on the call for the ball).

  • JJ

    Let’s just say with this kind of attitude towards tells, I’d love to play some poker with Tannehill and Philbin.

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  • William Varner

    Omar Kelly has went to great lengths to find out if it has it’s disadvantages and he said the Dolphins defense goes up against every day in practices and it doesn’t effect the outcome of the play. The main reason is because the defense is already set when the snap happens. So if they only have 6-7 in the box the others wouldn’t be able to react in time because you can’t jump a running play if you don’t know where it is designed to go. It’s not the same as watching a qb stare down his recievers.