A running story line surrounding the Miami Dolphins this week was the potential benching of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Throughout the week, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was routinely asked if Tannehill would be the team's starter, and he routinely answered that the team would decide the best 46 players before Sunday's game, and name them the starters. That quickly led to speculation that Tannehill, who is three games into this third season at the helm for Miami, could soon find himself on the bench.
Inside the team, however, it was a different story, as multiple players, to include Tannehill and backup quarterback Matt Moore, have said. Philbin reportedly spoke to Tannehill early in the week, explaining that there was no controvery surrounding his job, and that he would still be the team's starter. Tannehill took all of the first team snaps this week, with Moore admitting that there was never a change to his status as the second string passer.
The speculation all stemmed from Philbin's refusal to admit Tannehill is the starting quarterback to the media. That is standard practice for Philbin, who never talks about injured players, players who did not practice, or who will start for the team. How many times have we heard the "I'll be happy to talk about the players who practiced today," answer? Philbin does not talk about the players' statuses, and he was not going to change that to talk about Tannehill's.
And that was his mistake.
In the NFL, not saying Cameron Wake is your starting defensive end or Brent Grimes is your starting cornerback is one thing. Not admitting your starting quarterback is your starting quarterback is another story altogether. Tannehill has struggled early this season, there is no debating tthat, and not admitting he will start appeared to be confirmation that Tannehill was endanger of losing his job.
Philbin realizes that. According to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, Philbin stood in front of the team during a meeting Thursday morning and apologized for causing a distraction. He admitetd he should have handled the situation differently, and stated that something like this week will not happen again.
During his press conference Thursday, Philbin told the media, "All I'll say is one of the functions of the head coach is to create an atmosphere free from distractions. To the degree that I contributed to any of those distractions, intended or not doesn't really matter. That falls on me. It's my responsibility and certainly I expect that responsibility as a head coach. That's all I have to say on that."
The important part in this story is the fact that Tannehill, Moore, and the rest of the Dolphins players all knew all week who the starter was. Philbin stuck to his normal answer, feeling that if he answered it this week, he would have to answer it every week, and potentially about other players. He did not expect it to balloon into the national story it did, which was really just a perfect storm of timing and struggles from Tannehill. A question about your starting quarterback is different than one about any other position - but it's also one that Philbin's assumption is correct - once you start answering it, you will have to continue answering it.
However, when you don't answer it, you will continue to be asked it. And you players will be asked it. And the media will speculate on your non-answer.
Philbin understands that now - and did the right thing by standing up in front of the team and admitting he was wrong. Now, it's time to put the non-QB-controversy behind us and move on to covering the Dolphins against the Oakland Raiders in London.