The New York Jets blitzed the Miami Dolphins offense 22 times in a Week 4 beatdown of the South Florida AFC East rivals. The Dolphins, playing from behind and being forced to pass, simply kept allowing the blitz to come, and it kept forcing bad passes from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Fans and media repeatedly trashed Tannehill's ability to recognize the blitz and to change the play. Then, a theme from last year came back: What if Ryan Tannehill is not allowed to audible? What if the Dolphins do not give him the freedom to adjust a play to get out of a bad one and into one that can beat the blitz?
That exact idea became the hot topic of this week, as it has been asked to interim head coach Dan Campbell, Tannehill, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor over the last two days. Out of all their responses, the question of Tannehill's ability to audible has been answered with a resounding....maybe?!?
"If anyone blitzes you that much, you’ve got to identify the problem of what’s going on," Campbell explained on Wednesday. "He’s had the ability to alter protections or re-idea if he felt he needed to because he understands the problems. Of course, (center) Mike Pouncey does a good job of that too. He kind of sets the table. Ultimately, that’s a result of where we got in the game just of us not complementing each other. We got in a position of where we are behind significantly. The Jets know it. We’re trying to get the ball down the field and it’s just a bad formula. It’s something you don’t want to be in.
"There are things that we’ve addressed with that protection wise," Campbell continued. "Maybe, we’ll keep another guy in there if it’ll help him. To be honest with you, we’d love to take as much off of Ryan as we can as far as that’s concerned. He can handle it. He’s a smart guy, but really we just want to (say), ‘Hey, here’s the point. Let’s play ball. If you’ve got to throw high, he’ll throw high. Got to throw a side? We’ll throw a side. Let’s play ball.’ Ultimately, hey, what’s the worst thing in the world? You’ve got to throw the ball to (WR) Jarvis Landry for three yards? Well, the guy is pretty dynamic. He can make people miss.”
According to Campbell, Tannehill's a smart guy who can handle adjust the protections, but they would prefer to allow Pouncey to do that, while Tannehill focuses on making the best pass possible. Not exactly an answer to the audible question.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of our offense and exactly what we do," Tannehill responded Wednesday when asked about his ability to audible. "I feel great about our game plan each and every week. Obviously, coming off the bye, we’ve modified a few things and looked at areas where we can improve and we look to do that going forward.”
Tannehill provided a very quarterback answer to the question. It did not, however, provide any real response or insight - which would actually be the definition of a quarterback answer.
"Let me say this first overall, before I talk about the audibles, Ryan does as much in decision making as any quarterback I’ve coached and he can," Lazor replied Thursday, admitting he was informed ahead of the press conference that he would be asked about the topic. "He’s very intelligent. I’ve been in systems where the quarterback’s at the line making a lot of calls and it’s easy to turn on certain TV right now and see certain quarterbacks gesturing dummies, yelling all this stuff. I’ve been in systems where we did not audible at all. In the Jet game, Ryan changed the play by words. Some people would call that an audible, by hand signal. He had plays where a run was called and without having to change anything, he decided to throw the ball. So if people don’t think he makes those decisions, then we’ve done a heck of a job with our disguises.”
Taking Lazor's answer, it appears that Tannehill is able to audible, at least to some degree. It seems as though the team may have a run-pass option which Tannehill can call when he gets to the line of scrimmage. Still nothing overly definitive that if Tannehill does not like a play, he can completely change it to something else, but there is at least some sort of ability to make an adjustment at the line of scrimmage.
After all the questions, the answer to if Tannehill can audible still seems to be maybe.