The Miami Dolphins signed veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings in the 2015 offseason, looking to bring in an established player to mentor an extremely young group of receivers. While Jennings did not have the kind of season he was hoping to have when he re-united with Joe Philbin, formerly Jennings' offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers and the head coach for the Dolphins at the start of the 2015 season, his presence was beneficial to the rest of the receiving corps.
He also saw a lot of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who entered his fourth season with a lot of expectations and potential, but ended the year plateaued and with questions surrounding him. Jennings, speaking to CBS Sports this week, discussed Tannehill and if he is capable of being a "franchise quarterback" in the NFL.
"I don't think anyone knows yet," Jennings stated. "I really don't. He's been kind of babied, and I don't mean that in a bad way for him. He has the work ethic and the desire to be great. He just hasn't been given the reins to where he has the liberty and freedom to call the shots sometimes."
Jennings' comment is exactly right. The coaching staff babied Tannehill for some reason, never giving him the freedom to run the offense like a quarterback should be allowed to run his offense. Philbin, who was fired after the first four games of the season, reportedly wanted to dump Tannehill after the 2013 season, just two years into his career, and draft Derek Carr. He did not tell anyone of this idea until just before the Draft, when it would have completely destroyed any draft plans the team had, and then never seemed to get behind Tannehill again.
The 2014 season saw the strange situation of Philbin refusing to admit Tannehill was his starting quarterback ahead of the team's game against the Oakland Raiders (who were starting Carr after drafting him in the second round). The addition of Bill Lazor as the offensive coordinator that offseason did not help, as Lazor appears to have keyed off Philbin's uncertainty, and he never fully trusted Tannehill with the keys to the offense.
Lazor, according to reports, never looked to get Tannehill involved in the game planning prior to each week. Lazor never game Tannehill the ability to audible from bad plays. And, the offense never seemed to be in rhythm.
"It's almost like taking a baby, and he's six years old and no longer a baby," Jennings went on to say. "And he still has a bottle in his mouth. You got to take it out and see if he can drink out of a cup."
This year, the new coaching staff led by former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, is already stating how they will be a support behind Tannehill, rather than leaving him out there on his own. Gase, who previously worked as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, and Jay Cutler, is capable of getting the best out of Tannehill. The trick is, he needs to be given more responsibility to continue to grow, not less.
The bottle has to be taken away from a baby at some point if he is going to grow up. An NFL quarterback has to be given full control of his offense if he is going to succeed. This year needs to be the season that Tannehill is finally allowed to be an NFL quarterback.