There's a sequence of scenes in Howard Stern's family-friendly biopic Private Parts where Stern repeatedly and purposely attempts to irritate and humiliate his WNBC boss, Kenny Rushton (played by Paul Giamati), which culminates in Stern referring to his superior as "pig vomit" during his morning radio program. Hilarity ensues, of course, and Rushton is reduced to a shameful heap during his quest to censor the uncensor-able radio shock jock, but the term "pig vomit" stuck with me long after memories of that film faded from my memory. Funny how that works.
It didn't take long for me to assimilate the term into my everyday sports life, either. Various people tied to the Dolphins organization became "pig vomit," beginning with Dave Wannstedt and moving on down a list of players including failed cornerback Jamar Fletcher, quarterback fraud A.J. Feeley, hopelessly-in-over-his-head John Beck, butt-chinned extraordinaire Chad Henne, etc. And the reason why "pig vomit" is such an effective term is because it can encompass almost anything in a negative light--nasty enough to get the point across, yet ridiculous enough to not go completely over the top (which is why it fails when used to describe Nick Saban).
Without a true "pig vomit" currently on the Dolphins' roster, it recently occurred to me that, if Jeff Ireland and Co. aren't careful, the next player to carry that unflattering moniker will come out of the draft later this month.
It could even be Texas A&M phenom Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill, by all accounts, analysis and whatever else garbage the media can put forth, is a boom-or-bust quarterback prospect--a guy who will scorch the Earth of every defense he sees, or ultimately burn the war room of the team that selects him on the evening of April 26. Problem is, Tannehill isn't your everyday risky quarterback prospect. He clearly has the brains to manipulate a complicated offensive scheme in the NFL, and he has all the arm strength, athleticism, size and upside you could possibly ask for in a modern-day signal caller. Honestly, there's little to actually dislike about this guy. He's also a high-character individual who routinely displayed an unselfish attitude during his time in College Station. If Tannehill is a bust in waiting, he hides it extremely well.
Guys like JaMarcus Russell and Mark Sanchez and Blaine Gabbert had detractors right out of the gate for one simple reason: they came across as idiots in the interviews they gave prior to the draft. You wouldn't have felt comfortable putting any of those guys behind the wheel of your Volkswagen Jetta, let alone under center in a pro offense. Yet, they were able to use jaw-dropping arm strength (Russell), a likeable, laid-back Southern California demeanor (Sanchez) and a bowl game that consisted of a lot of passing yards in spite of a game-losing interception (Gabbert) to seduce a team holding a high draft pick. Tannehill's too gifted and too sincere to even approach the bust potential of those three quarterbacks, but where his stock loses its luster is in the experience department.
Frankly, when it comes to the "e" word, Tannehill just doesn't have much of it.
Look, even the most hardened Tannehill supporters would have to concede that his startling lack of experience as a starting quarterback (just 19 games) is cause for concern. The fact that he continued to ride significant pine behind two enormously average quarterbacks until midway through his junior season at A&M is a head scratcher. That these factors could put Tannehill squarely in "pig vomit" territory is upsetting.
And this is why Dolphins fans are leery of drafting him at No. 8 overall. Never mind that these are same fans who have been feverishly clamoring for a first-round quarterback in Miami the last few years. These fans are absolutely in speed dating mode, and it doesn't take much for them to push the button and waltz on over to the next available option. The problem with Tannehill is that he doesn't present much of a problem on film. The areas where he struggles are few and far between, and can be easily fixed under the tutelage of a capable coaching staff. But there isn't much Tannehill tape to sift through, either. Certain Tannehill-quarterbacked games immediately leap out of the mix (A&M vs. Oklahoma in 2010, vs. Baylor in 2011, and vs. Northwestern in the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl), but those games all occurred over a stretch of 14 months, not three or four years. If you like what you see in Tannehill's tape, you're left wishing there were more games to view. If the idea of drafting Tannehill gives you pause, there just isn't enough tape to sway your thinking. Thus, Dolphins fans are faced with this dilemma: a quarterback will likely be available at No. 8 overall on draft night, but no one knows if said signal caller will develop into a franchise-caliber starter or a toilet-caliber sham of a prospect. Evidence suggests Tannehill's more likely to be the former rather than the latter, but how much is Ireland and Co. willing to wager on that likelihood? How much would you gamble on it?
If Tannehill turns out to be that sham, he'll slide head-first into "pig vomit" territory--a guy who betrayed Dolphins fans and broke the streak of first-round quarterbacks who entered the league as Dolphins (Purdue's Bob Griese in 1967; Pittsburgh's Dan Marino in 1983) and eventually wound up in the Hall of Fame.
But if Tannehill succeeds, he could be a legit superstar--the quarterback Miami has waited so long to find.
Hmmm. Maybe he's worth the risk after all?