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Ryan Tannehill's year to prove himself

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is set up to finally prove he is the franchise quarterback the team needs. Or, that the Dolphins need to be coming up with a new plan.

NFL: Miami Dolphins-OTA Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are heading into the fifth year of the Ryan Tannehill era, with the former Texas A&M Aggies player under center for the team. A first-round draft pick in 2012, Tannehill has had great moments and bad moments during his time as the team's starting quarterback, the first player ever to start Week 1 as a rookie for Miami. Over the first four years of his career, Tannehill has started every game, has set team and NFL records, has thrown for more yards (15,460) than any quarterback not named Dan Marino (61,361) or Bob Griese (25,092) in team history, and has the third highest completion percentage (61.9 percent) for any quarterback with more than 10 completion (behind Bernie Kosar's 69.1 percent and Chad Pennington's 67.6 percent).

The stats continue with Tannehill throwing for the third most touchdowns in team history (87) trailing just Marino (420) and Griese (192) and the third highest passer rating (85.2) for any starting quarterback behind Pennington (94.5) and Marino (86.4). He also ranks fourth in interceptions (54) and third in sacks taken (184). He has won the fourth most games as a starting quarterback in team history, behind Marin's 147, Griese's 92, and Jay Fiedler's 36, but he has also lost the third most games in team history (35) trailing just Marino (93 in 17 years) and Griese (56 in 14 years) and is the only quarterback in the top five in wins for Miami with a losing record.

He also has 177 rushing attempts for 901 yards with five touchdowns.

It has not be the great start to the career that Tannehill and Dolphins fans had wanted, but it probably is not as bad as some Dolphins fans seem to think it is either.

There have been issues that give some background to Tannehill's struggles. He is the most sacked quarterback in the league since he was drafted and the second most hit. In five years in the NFL, he is now learning his third different offense from a third different offensive coordinator. The Dolphins coaches refused to run the ball regularly over the past few years, despite having a running back in Lamar Miller who was averaging about five yards a carry. He was not allowed to audible.

The list is long, and it does give a lot of explanation to why, entering his fourth year, there are still questions about who Tannehill is.

Call them excuses if you want. Make fun of the "patience brigade" if you must. But, at the end of the day, the people who call Tannehill "trash" or are clamoring for a new quarterback for the Dolphins are doing so with just the same amount of unknowns as the people who are sure he is the right quarterback for the future for Miami.

Does being the most sacked quarterback in the league over a four year span impact how a quarterback plays? Absolutely. To what degree? Who knows.

It caused David Carr to be a bust for the Houston Texans, where he was sacked 249 times in five years. Tannehill is not on that pace (49.8 sacks per season for Carr compared to 46 for Tannehill), but is not far off of it. In five years with Houston, Carr, who was selected with the first overall pick in 2002, threw for 13,391 yards with the Texans, recording a 22-53 record with a 60 percent completion rate, 59 touchdowns to 65 interceptions, and a 75.5 passer rating. He went on to play six more years, bouncing between the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers, but would only start four more games.

Is Tannehill the answer?

Is Tannehill a bust?

The comments at the end of this article will erupt with people giving definitive answers to those two questions. Someone will say he is great. Some (a lot) will say he is a bum. And, neither answer should be definitive.

This year, the Dolphins have solidified the offensive line with the best collection of talent the team has had since Tannehill was drafted. They have a set of young, developing receivers with a ton of talent that should provide Tannehill with the weapons he needs. They have a plan to get the tight ends more involved in the offense than they were last year. They understand the need to actually run the ball. They have a coach who understands it is more important to make the scheme fit the players, rather than try to make the players fit the scheme.

They have an head coach who, as a quarterbacks coach, made Tim Tebow a winning NFL quarterback, as an offensive coordinator, helped Peyton Manning to the greatest single season a quarterback has ever had, and as an offensive coordinator rescued Jay Cutler's career.

They have a coach who will work with his quarterback. A coach that will support his quarterback. A coach that will let his quarterback do the basic job of being a quarterback, including changing the plays so the offense avoids the strength of a defense.

And, Tannehill is responding. “He’s an excellent teacher," Tannehill said of Gase this week. "That’s one of the things I noticed about him from Day 1, when we were going through the installs right here in this room. He’s very efficient. He’s clear. He makes it to where it’s easy to understand. Everyone in the room can understand exactly what he’s saying and what he expects. I definitely think that’s one of his strongest attributes is his teaching ability.”

He then discussed how he looks at learning his third offensive system since joining the league, "I’m excited. I’m excited about what this offense entails. It entails a lot of fun stuff for a quarterback to be able to direct traffic, keep pressure on the defense – like I said – and get us in a good play. To me, that’s exciting. That’s something you come to work and you’re excited about putting your team in the best possible situation. I think this is an exciting offense to be in – regardless of what position you’re in – because of how we’re going to attack defenses, Coach Gase and what he brings to the table (and) his aggressive style and always wanting to keep the heat on the defense.”

On Thursday, during a drill, Tannehill missed a throw that was described to be off target by about a foot. Tannehill immediately dropped to the turf and did pushups. Asked about the punishment after the practice, he explained, "I missed a target, so it was self-induced. Twenty push-ups.”

Tannehill knows he needs to play better. He also knows this is a big year for him and the team. The Dolphins have set up this season to be the one to finally give us an idea of what the future of the franchise with Ryan Tannehill under center will be.