Miami Dolphins must draft a quarterback early in April’s draft

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 11: Ryan Tannehill /

This April the Miami Dolphins will enter the NFL Draft with the 11th overall pick and drafting a quarterback early makes a lot of sense.

There’s a lot to love about Ryan Tannehill, his rocket arm, his amazing toughness, his athletic ability, and his intellect. I get it, I understand why a good majority of the fan base is in his corner. Ryan has proven to be nothing more than an average QB. Some days he looks special. Other days he looks clueless. He generally starts slow, and he’s generally not all that great on money downs. That’s what you expect from an average QB. They’re the type of QB’s that do not thrive when the pressure is intense. They’re generally not going to go into a place like Baltimore, or Buffalo and will their team to win.

Ryan needs a strong support system around him. He relies on others to “win” their matchups as he’ll rarely throw a receiver open. Instead, he’ll hesitate, and wait until he gets taken down. Some quarterbacks just have a sixth sense. Call it an “IT” factor, call it instincts. Call it whatever you like, but whatever you call it Ryan lacks. He rarely uses his athletic talent instinctual. Remember how Marino would slide in the pocket, or step up into the pocket or do whatever was necessary to avoid the rush? Remember (if you are old enough) Bob Griese time and again ducking under would be sackers, and escaping their grasp? Ryan doesn’t have these instincts.

Ryan just doesn’t have that pocket presence, or “feel” that the great QB’s have. Folks, that stalls offenses. In the NFL you have to be able to function under chaotic conditions. You have to be able to make plays that win games in crunch time. Tannehill just doesn’t do it with any regularity. He needs everyone around him performing at a high level. That, more than anything explains his 37-40 career record in my opinion.

Now yes, our offensive line has been a work in progress for far too long. They’ve not been good enough and that absolutely contributes to his lack of success. Not much you can do when the lineman or running backs completely whiff on their assignments. That goes without saying, and certainly no fault of Ryan’s. When I watch the game film I throw those plays out. I would never judge a QB under intense pressure as is the case under those circumstances. Instead, I judge him when he gets ample time to make a decision and either throws, escapes, or buys enough time with his legs to get rid of the ball to live to fight another down.

Ryan falls short in this area consistently and that as much as anything else is why he gets sacked as often as he does. He hesitates; he stares down receivers or locks in on Jarvis more than he should. He also doesn’t look off defenders as often as he should which makes his throws more difficult than they need to be. It also limits yards after the catch.

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All that said, Gase has helped him improve certain aspects of his game. I notice a clear improvement in his footwork, his long ball which was never great is now becoming very good. These are positive signs. But, without that “IT” factor, without that pocket presence, it limits his ceiling. I believe Ryan deserves another year under Gase’s tutelage to see what progress he can make. Dowell Loggains was hired in large part because Gase believes he can help Ryan with his decision-making in the pocket. We’ll see how that goes.

Sherman, Lazor, Philbin, and Gase have worked with him to this point, not to mention Marino and all the quarterback coaches he’s worked with and still he’s not there yet. He’s not natural in the pocket. So maybe he takes that step under Loggains instruction. I suppose it is possible. But, what if he doesn’t? What if his knee limits his mobility? What if he stays average?

I keep hearing from fans saying Ryan is good enough to win with. He simply isn’t, not at his present skill level. Defensive coordinators are not dumb people. They know on money downs they can force him into difficulties by sending pressure. His performance on those downs confirms this. So we can blame the coaches for play design (As we did with Sherman, Lazor, and now Gase) and we can blame the offensive line, as we have for years. Or we can look at the true source of the problem. The QB just isn’t a natural QB.

To steal a phrase Shula used to describe David Woodley, he’s an athlete playing QB. We need him to develop into a QB playing QB.

It’s time to have a backup plan. It’s time to demand exceptional QB play. This more than anything else will help to get this team to escape the jaws of mediocrity.

And, yes. Defense wins championships, but great QB play gets you into the playoffs on a fairly consistent basis where anything can happen.