Another day, another ESPN article disparaging the Miami Dolphins. After Bill Barnwell graded Miami’s offseason as a D+, the Worldwide Leader in Sports is back taking another shot at the South Florida NFL franchise. This time, they come after Miami with their “Quarterback Confidence Index,” written by Dan Graziano.
The article starts with teams “completely confident” in their quarterbacks - starter and backups. The number one team is, obviously, the New England Patriots, with the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions joining them in the category.
The Dolphins, with starter Ryan Tannehill coming of his best season - albeit shortened by a knee injury with three games and a playoff appearance still to go - and backup Matt Moore, have to be coming up soon, right? Nope.
The Dolphins do not appear in the “confidence is a two-way street” category, nor are they in the ‘confidence ascending” or “confidence descending” groups. “Holding steady” and “Let’s see some more”...and still no Dolphins.
Miami shows up as the 24th ranked quarterback group in the league, falling into the second-to-last grouping, “watch your back.” Absolutely nothing the Dolphins coaching staff has done or said has shown anything but confidence in Tannehill, but apparently he has to watch his back.
To put this in an even better frame of reference - and show just how ridiculous the ranking is - the Dolphins are two positions behind the Buffalo Bills, who wanted to move on from Tyrod Taylor this offseason, but ultimately re-signed him when they realized there was not a better option avaiable. Graziano writes of Taylor and the Bills, “though Taylor is surely the starter right now, it isn't difficult to imagine them trying out Cardale Jones, T.J. Yates or even fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman if Taylor isn't doing what they want him to do.”
The Bills land in the “let’s see more” group, but apparently Tannehill needs to be watching his back. The Dolphins are joined in their group by the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, and Chicago Bears. Is ESPN really lumping Tannehill in with Trevor Siemian, Blake Bortles, Tom Savage/Deshaun Watson, and Mike Glennon/Mitchell Tribusky?
Graziano explains the Dolphins’ ranking, writing:
There's no one ostensibly pushing Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins' starting quarterback job. Perpetual backup Matt Moore is of course still there, as is David Fales. Tannehill would have to get hurt or become totally incompetent to lose the job. But the Dolphins played fine with Moore in there last season after Tannehill got hurt.
Although Tannehill is technically signed through 2020, the only remaining guarantee after this season is an injury-only guaranteed $5.525 million of his $17.475 million 2018 salary. The Dolphins can escape the Tannehill contract next offseason. He set a new career high in completion percentage (67.1) in his first season under coach Adam Gase, but he has yet to elevate his game to a point that justifies a $20 million-per-year cap charge.
The Dolphins didn't draft Tannehill's eventual replacement, but that doesn't mean they're 100 percent confident with what they have for the long term.
Basically, Tannehill needs to be watching his back from no one, according to Graziano’s logic. Basically, he is looking at the ability of Miami to shed Tannehill’s contract after this season as justification for the placement so far down the rankings.
Graziano is not wrong that the Dolphins structured Tannehill’s contract in this way for this exact reason. He seems off that the Dolphins are not 100 percent confident in Tannehill. Unless the wheels completely fall off this season, or Tannehill’s knee is much worse than anyone realizes, head coach Adam Gase and the rest of the club’s coaching staff seem to believe in Tannehill and have not made any signals that, after twonyears of bulding the offense, they would have interest in starting over with a free agent or rookie.
The Dolphins do not belong in the top tier of this ranking, but they do not belong in the second-to-last group either. An honest look at the team should probably have them ranked around the same levels as the Washington Redskins with Kirk Cousins or the Kansas City Chiefs with Alex Smith. That pushes Miami into the 13-15 range, which would be the “confidence is a two-way street,” “confidence ascending,” or “confidence descending” groups.
Instead, we get another ESPN article that again trashes the Dolphins.