Ryan Tannehill: Expectations and Rookie Year Prototypes

Good news: The reviews of Ryan Tannehill's performance are favorable - ESPN bloggers, Howard Cossell, Ron Jaworski, etc. say that Tannehill's comfortable running the no-huddle offense, reading defenses, audibling, and making smart throws. His quick transition to the NFL was made possible by already knowing (by his own estimation) 70% of the playbook at the beginning of OTAs - unlike most rookies who have to start from scratch learning their own playbook and how to read NFL defenses. He occasionally makes rookie mistakes, like not going through all of his progressions, but he's never looked like he was in over his head, despite receiver drops and questionable O-line play.

Also good news: In the past week, we've added a third year wide receiver (Armstrong) and a fourth year wide receiver (Hartline) to the lineup. Neither are All-Pros, but both are 15+ yards-per-catch veterans - in other words, deep threats with starting experience. Armstrong is new to the playbook, and Hartline is not in football shape yet, but they add a lot of ability and experience to the wide receiving corps that let Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore down in preseason. Still, Tannehill's performance depends on more than his receivers. A quarterback's performance is helped by a solid run game that forces teams to stack the box and bite on play-action, a good defense that gives the offense more possessions, and a good special teams unit that gives the QB favorable field position.

With that in mind, let's go over what recent history says our expectations for Tannehill should be for this season.

James Walker in an ESPN AFC East Blog post titled, "Realistic expectations for Ryan Tannehill," had a table with stats of recent Rookie QB Starters. Below is that table, modified in the following ways:

1. Changed the "INT" Column to "Turnovers" to include lost fumbles

2. "Yards" and "Touchdowns" include passing and rushing .

3. Extrapolated the stats for rookies who missed games to project their production over 16 games. Example - Stafford played in 10 games, so his per-game average production (total production divided by 10) was multiplied by 16.

Season Stats For Week 1 Rookie Starters, Past Five Seasons

Player Games Yards TD Turnovers
Matt Ryan 16 3,544 17 12
Joe Flacco 16 2,151 16 14

Mark Sanchez

Sanchez Extrapolated









Matthew Stafford

Stafford Extrapolated









Sam Bradford 16 3,575 19 17
Andy Dalton 16
3,398 21 15
Cam Newton 16 4,757 35
All QB Average
3,421 21

James Walker used the average of those QBs' stats to set expectations for Tannehill's year. With the adjustments to the data I made, a standard to compare Tannehill's rookie production is roughly 3,421 yards, 21 TDs, 19 turnovers combined (rushing and passing) in 16 games. By comparison, in 2011 the combined production of Matt Moore and Chad Henne was 3,365 yards, 20 TDs, 19 turnovers.

Rather than just use a raw average as a standard of comparison, I created 4 "prototypes" for Tannehill's rookie year.

1. "Hall of Fame Potential" Year: The Rookie is insanely productive and efficient (>4500 yards, 2:1 TD-to-turnover ratio), leaving fans confident their QB will be getting Pro Bowl votes every year

Prototype: Cam Newton (stat line - 35 touchdowns, 19 turnovers, 4,757 yards, as a rookie)

The story of the season: Defenses eventually began to figure Cam out, but he still put on a show. The Panthers' defense suffered serious injuries, but statistically, in an offense designed to ease his transition to the NFL, Cam had one of the greatest rookie years by a QB ever.

As for RT17: Extremely unlikely, but if Tannehill has a similar season, with our defense, we'd be a double-digit win, playoff-caliber team.


2. Great Year: The Rookie leads his team to a Wildcard berth in the playoffs (~3500 yards, 1.5:1 TD-to-turnover ratio), leaving fans confident they have their franchise QB

Prototypes: Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan (average stat line - 19 touchdowns, 13.5 turnovers, 3,471 yards)

The story of the season: Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan led their teams to Wildcard spots as rookies. They weren't All-Pros, but they regularly made plays to help their teams win. Important facts:

1. Both had first-round wide receivers (AJ Green and Roddy White) to rely on in the passing game

2. Both had established running backs (Cedric Benson and Michael Turner) to diversify the offense.

3. Both had solid defenses (Bengals were 9th in scoring defense in 2012, Falcons were 11th in 2008)

As for RT17: If the run game is strong all year, if the defense is top 10 in points allowed again, and if the receivers step up, Tannehill could thrive. With this type of rookie production and our easier-than-average schedule, we're a 10-6 wild-card contender.


3. Solid Year: The Rookie has a mix of good and bad games, leaving fans fairly optimistic (~3000 yards, 1:1 TD to turnover ratio)

Prototypes: Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford (average stat line - 17.5 touchdowns, 15.5 turnovers, 2,863 yards)

The story of the season: Flacco frankly wasn't asked to do much as a rookie. Bradford had a strong rookie year until fading noticeably down the stretch. They didn't hurt their teams, but they weren't consistent throughout the year to be considered reliable contributors. Flacco and Bradford continue to have problems with consistency, but for the most part, their franchises are satisfied with them.

As for RT17: This is Tannehill's season if our receivers struggle and the run game stalls with defenses stacking the box. Unless the defense is elite, this QB production leads to a 6-8 win season - a "Chad Henne"-season. These numbers match Henne's typical end-of-season stat line.


4. "Bad Omen" Year: The Rookie struggles, leaving fans worried about the future (fewer than 16 games played in rookie season, under 3000 yards, under 1:1 TD-to-turnover ratio = more turnovers than TDs)

Prototypes: Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford (average stat line - 15 touchdowns, 22 turnovers, 2,463 yards in 13 games)

The story of the season: Fans feel "queasy" about these rookies, to use Philbin's phrasing.

Stafford dealt with injuries and turnovers in his 10-game rookie season, then had another season-ending injury after 3 games in 2010 before finally showing what he's capable of in 2011 by being healthy and productive with fewer turnovers. However, Lions fans worry every time Stafford takes a hit. Sanchez's rookie year was marked by few TDs with many turnovers, but last year he scored 32 touchdowns. However, Jets fans worry every time Sanchez has the ball due to his continuing problem with turnovers - He has had at least as many turnovers as touchdowns in two of his past 3 seasons and throws multiple demoralizing "pick-sixes" every year.

As for RT17: These are two potential concerns for Tannehill's season. The first is turnovers due to limited experience and a poor supporting cast on offense, though he had only 1 INT on 78 throws in a pass-heavy pre-season. Second is injuries stemming from the weakness of the right side of the O-line or lack of depth if Long gets injured since our primary backup tackle, Will Yeatman, was a tight end 4 weeks ago.


As the great Dan Marino said in his recent comments about Tannehill, the important thing is to not overreact to one game.

When judging Tannehill's performance against the Texans, remember it will be his first start, and it will be against the best defense he plays against all year (besides maybe the Jets' defense), so it will probably be his worst game of the year. A good performance is a great sign, but a poor performance is not a reason to give up hope. We'll see at the end of the year how his season measures up against those I discussed.

Fake Poll: What do you predict will be said of Tannehill's rookie season at the end of the year?

A. It rivals Cam Newton's rookie season - rookie records were re-written!

B. Reminds me of Matt Ryan's and Andy Dalton's rookie seasons - the fourth-quarter comebacks and Wildcard run were awesome!

C. Like Sam Bradford's and Joe Flacco's rookie seasons, we saw enough flashes of talent to be hopeful about 2013.

D. We should have started Matt Moore from the beginning - the rookie got beat up like Matthew Stafford because the O-line sucks

E. Releasing David Garrard was a huge mistake - like the Jets in Mark Sanchez's rookie season, we could have done much better with a veteran suited for the West Coast offense

F. Who knew that Pat Devlin was the answer all along? Incredible that he made the Pro-Bowl after Tannehill and Moore were lost to injury.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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