Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be the starter in 2016. He may not be in 2017.
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When the Dolphins signed Ryan Tannehill to a long contract they did so with the intention on him being their franchise quarterback. Tannehill signed a contract extension through 2020. By all accounts, his contract will pay him like a franchise quarterback. The Dolphins however were smart enough to read the tea leaves and that allowed them to structure the contract to give the team an out should Tannehill not perform to expectations.
So far, Tannehill has not performed to expectations.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins do indeed have a way out of Tannehill’s contract. That out begins following the 2016 season making next year a pivotal one for Ryan Tannehill. Especially if he views his career as continuing in South Florida.
Criticism of Tannehill has grown throughout 2015. He has been largely inconsistent. Some of his problems stem from a poor offensive line and other problems are a result of coaching. Yet for all the outside influences on Tannehill, throwing the ball is his responsibility alone and he isn’t doing it well enough to stave off that criticism.
Jackson points out several key numbers in Tannehill’s contract. Most notably the escalation after the 2016 season and the guaranteed portions of his contract. Those guarantees come in 2015 and 2016 and include a $3.5 million guarantee for 2017 that must be paid in 2016. In other words, after 2016 the Dolphins technically do not owe him anything on his contract. This will allow the team to jettison the quarterback if he fails to impress next season.
Through the remaining years of his contract, after 2016, Tannehill will cost the team between $17.9 and 19.5 million. That’s a lot of money and cap space for a quarterback that may not be improving statistically or in the win column.
What’s important here is the coaching change that will likely happen at season’s end. Having that out in his contract could be a very big factor in who will accept the Dolphins job. With Tannehill having question marks and a salary that is conducive to moving on, the Dolphins next head coach has an almost immediate out and at least one year of full evaluation.
One of the biggest problems with Tannehill is his attitude. He has a good one but he is not a vocal or demonstrative leader and that is a problem. When the game is on the line does his players believe he can deliver them a victory? He hasn’t shown that he can. In fact, quite the opposite. Tannehill isn’t a come from behind kind of quarterback. Especially when the team needs multiple scores.
While Tannehill has rubbed enough people the wrong way he has a lot of supporters who view him as a solid up and coming franchise quarterback. That may be true and he has improved tremendously on his long throws but Tannehill also lacks any degree of pocket presence and can’t “feel” pressure from either side. This is a characteristic that one would expect a quarterback to either enter the league with or progress over the course of several seasons. Tannehill has not progressed in these two areas. Adding more fuel to that fire is his poor footwork in the pocket.
More oftent than not, Tannehill has displayed an inability to step up in the pocket, thus buying time and avoiding the pass rush. Of course if he isn’t aware of the pressure he won’t move. This is one of the reasons that over the last four seasons, no other quarterback has been sacked as many times. This is also a problem with the offensive line.
Tannehill needs to develop a fire as well. He is very flaccid during games and while he will tend to show some emotion, apparently throwing his helmet last weekend on the sidelines, he needs to show is teammates that he is unquestionably the leader. Right now the unquestionable leader on offense is Jarvis Landry. A slot receiver.
By contract the Dolphins are committed to Tannenhill in 2016. Beyond that, it will hopefully be a decision that will be made by the next head coach and not the front office. If Tannehill remains on the team past 2016 the Dolphins will likely restructure the contract guaranteeing him more money. He has to earn that restructure first.
2015 is a wash. Be it poor coaching, poor line play, poor play-calling, and poor performance, the only thing we have seen from Tannehill thus far is improvement in his long passes. This leads to a critical season in 2016 that will put Tannehill front and center perhaps for the last time. With this being said, this years draft may be the draft Miami looks to take a legitimate development quarterback that can take the reins in 2017 if Tannehill fails.
Suffice to say, there would be an irony in all of this. In 2012 I wrote an article about the circle that connected Tannehill, Joe Philbin, and Jeff Ireland. In that article I outlined how each were connected to each other. Two seasons ago Jeff Ireland was fired. A season and four games later, Joe Philbin was fired. A season from now, Ryan Tannehill could suffer the same fate.