Ryan Tannehill is entering is his third season in the NFL. It will be the first season since his college days that he will not have Mike Sherman to lean on. He is learning a new offense, has new personnel, and faces scrutiny by every fan and every member of the media. Success this season would go a long way to showing that he is in fact the teams franchise quarterback. A step back and the team could be drafting his future replacement next year.
Tannehill has been up and down since arriving in South Florida. A quick review will show that he has not had the full support of the team as other young quarterback have.
Consider that in his first season with the team, Tannehill was saddled by mediocre line play, an offense that forbid him most of the season to use his running ability, a lack of wide-receiver help, and an anemic offensive system.
In his rookie season, Tannehill’s wide-outs consisted of Davone Bess and Brian Hartline. The team lacked a number one home run threat. To assist in the lack of wide-receivers the Dolphins used Reggie Bush out of the back-field to aid the passing game. Along the offensive line, Jake Long was in and out of the lineup with injuries before going on IR later in the season and the team relied on rookie Jonathan Martin, John Jerry, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, and Josh Samuda to create lanes and pass protect.
The worst part of his rookie season was the coaching. Mike Sherman installed an offensive system that Tannehill had played in at Texas A&M under Sherman yet the Dolphins opted to keep the offense simplified. Tannehill was often not asked or was limited in his allowance to scramble down field. He was a quarterback being coached not to win but to not mistakes.
In his sophomore season fans and media alike expected a huge jump from Tannehill. The addition of Mike Wallace was supposed to open up the passing game. Unfortunately the Dolphins were saddled with three key issues that platooned his season.
The offensive line literally fell apart amid allegations of bullying leading to one player quitting and the other player suspended. Mike Sherman continued to decline in his ability to call plays. His offense sagged under a lack of diversity in the play calling and the offense sputtered as defenses were able to pick up the offenses snap counts. Tannehill was sacked 58 times. Finally, there was no cohesion between Mike Wallace and Ryan Tannehill and Tannehill often tried to force feed the ball to the speed wide-receiver. The long ball however was a serious issue that inevitably made Tannehill worse as the season progressed. Trying without success to connect on the deep pass.
We arrive in 2014 with the third pro season for Tannehill. Aside from the addition of Jarvis Landry, the wide-receivers remain the same. A talented unit with a lot of depth. The offensive line has changed at all five positions and as they try and acclimate to the each other and the new system, questions continue to be asked about their ability to keep Tannehill off his back.
This is about Tannehill though. His critical third year. Tannehill must emerge undoubtedly as the teams field leader and locker room leader. He must develop chemistry with Mike Wallace and those under thrown and over thrown passes must be eliminated. Tannehill possess many of the traits required to be a starting quarterback in the NFL but he lacks that “it” factor that other quarterback in his class have. Perhaps it is confidence, or ego, or perhaps it’s supporting cast. Tannehill must find a way to make it all work.
There are so many things that Tannehill can do right but he must show the consistency on the field doing those things. His reads are very good, he doesn’t fold under pressure, he makes smart decisions, he reads defensive changes, and he can throw the football. But there are things he can’t seem to do well and those are the areas that are keeping him from taking the next step in his career and moving him out of the average quarterback rankings.
He simply can not hit the deep ball consistently. He has no pocket presence to understand or ‘feel’ pressure, he is too resistant to using his legs to pick up yards (although that could have been coaching as well), and he still has too many balls batted at the line of scrimmage.
There are no more excuses for the quarterback. While this year is far from make or break for Tannehill, a big step forward will go along way in keeping him parr of the Dolphins for years to come. A step back and the Dolphins will start looking at options next season.
Two years ago I wrote an article that the trio of Jeff Ireland, Joe Philbin, and Ryan Tannehill’s futures were all linked together. Ireland was part of the coaching hire that brought Philbin to Miami, Philbin brought Tannehill to Miami, Ireland drafted him. The first piece in that ring has been removed and should the Dolphins fail to win this season, it’s likely that Philbin will be removed. If Philbin is removed a new coach will likely seek his own style of quarterback. Which could then remove Tannehill from the ring.