The Miami Dolphins could be considering benching franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill in favor of backup Matt Moore, according to the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero. The move could, theoretically, come as early as this weekend's game against the Oakland Raiders.
According to Salguero's sources, the Dolphins coaching staff is set to meet this afternoon to discuss the idea of allowing Moore to start against the Raiders for the team's game in London. Nothing has been decided, but the fact that three weeks into the season, the coaches are at least putting the idea on the table does not bode well for Tannehill's future.
The third-year quarterback out of Texas A&M has struggled this year and is having his worst statistical year thus far. He appears to have regressed, with increased accuracy problems and pocket presence issues. Tannehill has started all 35 games since he was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Head coach Joe Philbin did nothing to quell the idea of Tannehill being benched on Monday during his media availability. Asked if he would consider a move at the quarterback position, Philbin replied, "We are going to get our 46 best players to the game and we are going to utilize them the best way possible."
Not a lot of support for his incumbent starter.
Philbin was then asked if the new offense, the first time Tannehill has been in an offense not designed by Mike Sherman since high school, could be a part of why the quarterback's stats are down. He replied, "I think it is a little early. Again, his first year was his first year. His second year there was improvement in a variety of statistical categories if you are just looking at a piece of paper, and we are three games into this season. So I think it's a little bit early to draw conclusions as to where he is in his third year. I would tell you offensively we have to score more points. We talked about it as an offensive staff. I think we had a touchdown drive, was it a 19-yard touchdown drive yesterday? That's the only one in the game. It's hard to win games in this league when that's the only touchdown drive you put together is a 19-yard drive consistently. We missed a field goal. We had opportunities, so I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about that. I thought he threw the ball much better in the first half yesterday and I thought he threw the ball better overall than he did in the week before."
After possibly a little sign of a positive thought on Tannehill, Philbin was asked if Moore would be given a 50-50 chance to start. "We are going to choose the 46 guys that we think can help us win the football game, and we are going to go from there," Philbin replied, again seeming to leave the door open for Moore. "That's the starting point and we are going to utilize the players the best way we feel fit."
"I'm not offering any excuses," Philbin said of Tannehill's performances. "I don't think Ryan offers excuses. We're three games into it and we have to play better as an offensive unit. He's part of that. I don't view it as a one man issue. The offense has to play better. The offense has to score more points."
Philbin was then asked if not directly answering who would be the starting quarterback leaves Tannehill in a "I don't know what's going to happen' situation. "I'm going to stick with the answer that I've given. That's what I've done since I've gotten here and that's the answer I'm sticking to."
Finally, Philbin was directly asked if Tannehill will start against Oakland. He again sidestepped the question, "We're going to start our game plan for Oakland when I leave here and we're going to decide what 46 players are going and how best to utilize them."
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor appears to be more supportive of Tannehill, replying, "No," when asked if he has any doubts that Tannehill will start this week. Though he then added the caveat, "We all rent these seats, right? It's a production business and that's what we're here to do is produce."
Lazor, who installed a new offensive system when he was hired as the offensive coordinator after serving as the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterbacks coach, was asked if he has concens about Tannehill not being equipped to run the offensive system he installed. "I cringe when you say your system," he replied. "This is our offense together and it's really built on what the players can do. Our offense is what Ryan can run and what you're seeing are the things that he's very capable of doing and he will do."
Lazor explained his view of Tannehill's play in the 34-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, "I thought there were some examples in the first half when he played just like you'd want an NFL quarterback to play, sliding the pocket, throwing some accurate throws, and so I felt good. I thought he threw the ball more accurately than he did last week. I think he's going to watch the video and see some plays he'd like back. I have a pretty clear picture of the way that we coach him to help him get there."
Asked how he would rate Tannehill's performance over the first three games, Lazor replied, "On the way. We're getting there." Lazor went on to explain that he is not concerned about his starting quarterback, "I'm absolutely not afraid. There is no panic. I feel like I'm fielding questions based on panic, but hopefully you feel from me that there is no panic. When we've coached young quarterbacks in the past, we've done studies on a whole bunch of quarterbacks in the NFL and what their numbers were their first year and their second year and their third year, so I've seen those who've gotten it real quick and I've also seen some that have gotten it slower, seen them statistically. I can't tell you all of the reasons why because I wasn't with all of them. I've also been through some seasons where we started 1-2 and haven't been real happy with what our production was and have been able to make it into something that we were pretty proud of and that's what I expect us to do."
Will Tannehill be the one to lead Miami into something of which they can be proud? Will he be given the chance? Philbin seems a lot less sure than Lazor of that. If Salguero's sources are correct, "We're getting there," better become "We're there," pretty fast, or Tannehill could find "there" being a bench.