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Ryan Tannehill - Part Two

Arizona Cardinals v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hello, again, fellow Dolphin fans. Since the last column on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was so well received by our Phinsider brethren, I felt that I would be remiss not to bestow another installment upon you as expediently as possible.

From where I’m standing, Dolphin fans seem to be split into three separate camps on the subject of the sixth year QB:

  • those who believe that Tannehill, whatever shortcomings he may have, is still better than anyone else the Dolphins are likely to find, so there is little to be gained by bringing in another guy at the position
  • those who believe that, while RT17 is a serviceable starter, and a quarterback Miami can win with, the team should continue to look for players who can provide competition at the position, in the interests of improving the team.
  • those who believe Tannehill hasn't fulfilled his potential, takes up more salary cap space than he's worth and that the front office should look to move on from him sooner, rather than later.

Whichever camp you tend to gravitate towards, there is at least one point that is beyond question: the team absolutely cannot continue to expend virtually all their high draft picks on one side of the ball while ignoring the other side. We're very grateful to the various South Florida beat writers who cover the team; they unearth valuable information that we, as fans, are not privy to. However, they have all, to a man, completely missed the boat in a major way on this particular issue. Whenever it has been pointed out to them -- which has been done on multiple occasions -- they either give us the brush off or ignore us entirely. It reads like a bad joke: "Team finishes near the bottom of the league on defense, proceeds to draft offensive players, almost exclusively, the following Spring". Rinse and repeat. I ask you, would Don Shula do that? Would Jimmy Johnson do that? Would Mike Tomlin do that? Would Bill Belichick do that? No, they wouldn't. One columnist, whom fan appealed to prior to the 2016 draft, replied back with a laundry list of the defensive players the Dolphins front office had picked up, many of whom were signed off the street after being waived by their former team, as if that somehow makes up for bringing in premium, blue-chip talent from the college ranks on that side of the ball.

I know that you're probably tired of hearing complaints about the multi-year, NFL record wide receiver spree that's been going on in the Dolphins' war room on draft day the past few seasons, but, do you know why what Miami has done resulted in their setting an NFL record? Because that approach doesn't generally result in a winning football program. If that were really the blueprint for constructing a championship roster, more teams would be doing it, but it isn't, and they don't. As longtime San Francisco personnel man Vinny Cerrato once said, year in and year out, there are dozens of wide receivers coming out of college that are playing at a high level, so you don't go that way in the first few rounds unless a guy is truly exceptional. 'Beat the DB's press at the line, run fast down the field, catch the ball, try to keep running'. Seriously, folks, we're not talking about a position that is overly complicated.

In fact, you could make a very strong argument that Miami's front office has done almost exactly the opposite of what they should have been doing the past few seasons with Tannehill as their QB. Ryan is generally very careful with the ball; he doesn't make many dumb throws. Many of his turnovers seem to be the result of his being strip-sacked or being hit just as the pass is being thrown. Which, of course, is part of the reason why he will never be more than an average quarterback because it takes him a millisecond too long to process what he sees. In some ways, Tannehill reminds us of former UC-Davis QB Ken O'Brien, who came out in 1983 and was drafted by the New York Jets just ahead of Dan Marino. O'Brien wasn't nearly as athletic as Tannehill, but much more aggressive throwing the ball down the field and needed superior protection to perform at a high level. He obviously played in a different era but won his share of shootouts while with the Jets. We know this will probably sound like Monday morning quarterbacking, but if the Dolphins spent that number one, number two and two threes, other than Landry, of course, on offensive linemen, we still would have been miffed about them not drafting defense, but the team would be better off today.

Then there is the psychological aspect of Ryan Tannehill, as he is perceived by the team's fan base. When an article is derogatory toward Ryan, it seems personal. For a guy who is being paid tens of millions of dollars in guaranteed money, it shouldn't feel personal, but it does. "What do you mean, you don't like Ryan Tannehill? The guy's been getting the snot knocked out of him every week, and he keeps coming back to fight again!" "He was the most sacked quarterback in football the past three years! You wouldn't be at the top of the league if you were getting hit like that, either." I cannot make this any clearer: I think Ryan, the man, is fantastic. He's the type of guy, that if he wanted to marry your daughter and the only job he had was flipping burgers, you'd give him your blessing, because no one works harder, or is of higher character. This isn't an 'attack' on Ryan Tannehill; it's an indictment of his ability to lead the Miami Dolphins to even a playoff win, much less a title. I’m not 'blaming him for all the team's problems', I’m blaming him for three: mediocre QB play and, by extension, one of the worst defenses in football and bad chemistry in the locker room, because guys like Reshad Jones understandably get upset when they see free agents on defense getting paid big money because Miami won't draft defensive players. When not one, but two rookie quarterbacks, one of which was a fourth-round pick, are playing better than you are, in their first professional seasons, we can only draw one of two conclusions: either you aren't good enough, or the quarterbacks coming out of college these days are a lot more talented than the QB's who were turning pro five years ago. In either case, something has to change, and the track record for starting QB's who suddenly have an epiphany in their sixth season or later is not good. Write it down: if Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier don't bring in some competition for Tannehill this year, they certainly will next season. It's the nature of the business.