Have we seen Tannehill’s best?


As a casual listener to ESPN Radio, there are certain shows that I enjoy tuning into and paying special attention to. On the other hand, there are shows like the Herd with Colin Cowherd that I typically zone out to, unless I hear something that sparks my interest. Today, Cowherd touched on an interesting aspect pertaining to NFL quarterbacks and their progression throughout their careers that really caught my attention.

Cowherd referred to an article by Stu Woo of the Wall Street Journal that highlighted quarterbacks’ statistics, particularly statistics within the first two years of the quarterback’s career compared to the numbers thereafter. According to Cowherd and Woo, historically, the sophomore season for the quarterback is often indicative of the rest of their career.

Cowherd and Woo used New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, among others as his primary example.

The story has some corroboration to it. Since 1995, 13 quarterbacks have started at least 12 games in their first three NFL seasons. Cowherd states, “On average, these quarterbacks improve significantly from their rookie year to their second year. After that, the improvements small enough to suggest two years is all you need to determine whether a quarterback is going to make it in the NFL.”

In this case, we are using the 13 quarterbacks as the sample. Here are the average sample statistics from the first two years of the study:

[table id=22 /]

These statistics are believed to closely resemble the player’s statistics throughout their careers.

Cowherd goes on to explain Smith regressed in year two, when he should have progressed, meaning the Jets have seen the best of Smith and he won’t pan out in the NFL. Whether Cowherd’s and Woo’s conclusion is correct, remains to be seen.

As the conversation lead on, Cowherd relates Ryan Tannehill into the discussion.

"“They [Miami Dolphins] so desperately think Ryan Tannehill is going to pop out. Ryan Tannehill is what he is, and they saw it by his second year.”"

I found this comparison interesting. Could Tannehill’s second year really be indicative of how his career will turn out? Here is how his statistics compare from his rookie and sophomore year, compared to his third year statistics:

[table id=23 /]

In this case, Tannehill’s third season’s statistics were significantly better than his rookie and sophomore season. Cowherd also underestimated Tannehill’s Quarterback Rating.

"“People are saying he really grew second to third year… Not really. He’s always going to be a 86-88 quarterback rating guy. He’s not going to pop and get to the next level. But hey good news, he’s better than average.”"

Tannehill’s quarterback rating was a 92.8 last season, according to profootballreference.com.

But on another note, I agree with Cowherd in a sense. These statistics can fluctuate on a variety of factors, including the schedule, the strength of the roster, coaching, among many others. In many cases, the second season of a quarterback does resemble their career a few years down the line. Take Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson as examples:

Luck’s statistics [table id=24 /]

Wilson’s statistics [table id=25 /]

Again, whether these second year statistics relatively resemble the rest of these player’s careers remains to be seen. The study can provide coaches and team personnel with a somewhat reliable basis for how their young quarterbacks should be progressing.

In relevance to the study, I do not see Tannehill’s second year statistics being indicative of the rest of his career. Tannehill showed great progression through his third year in the NFL, and is seemingly still progressing. More importantly though, Tannehill’s progression should strive to help the team win more games.

To hear the complete conversation, visit The Herd.

To view Woo’s post on the Wall Street Journal, click here.