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ESPN’s ‘Shadow’ MVPs: ‘Elite’ players whose absences were felt includes Ryan Tannehill

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NFL: OCT 08 Titans at Dolphins Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins finished the 2017 regular season 6-10, failing to back up their 2016 record of 10-6 and a playoff appearance. The biggest issue with the team - and there were plenty of issues this past season - was the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who again injured his knee during training camp and was out for the season. Any time a team has a quarterback change during camp, it is going to be a bad year. The Dolphins suffered through that this year.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert released a list of “NFL’s Shadow MVPs.” He subtitles the article, “These elite players’ absences were felt the most,” and guess who made the list?

Elite player.

Absence felt tme most.

Shadow MVP.

Ryan Tannehill.

Seifert explains the article, writing:

But what about the most valuable player who wasn’t on the field? The 2017 season was notable for its long list of injuries to elite players. What follows is an attempt to identify the top five players whose ailments most impacted their respective team’s fortunes. It’s based, in part, on statistical analysis of the teams’ performances with and without what we’ll call their “Shadow MVPs.”

Number one on the list - Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Waston.

Number two on the list - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Number three on the list - Tannehill.

The quarterback some fans want replaced. Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s Shadow MVP.

Seifert writes of Tannehill:

Replacing Tannehill with Jay Cutler (14 starts) and Matt Moore (two) dropped the Dolphins from an average offense in 2016 to one of the worst in 2017. That’s the biggest reason why their record flipped from 10-6 to 6-10. Their 2017 offense ranked 28th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, as compared to 14th in 2016. How much of that could be attributed to the quarterback drop-off? Cutler and Moore’s combined QBR (38.0) reflected a similar slide; it ranked 28th in the NFL, a year after Tannehill (54.2) ranked 16th. The Dolphins’ scoring fell 15 percent, and with Cutler and Moore at quarterback, they ranked 30th in turnovers (29). (They ranked 17th with Tannehill in 2016.)

No one would suggest that Tannehill is a top-end quarterback like Rodgers (or even Watson in his short stretch). Tannehill landed in Tier 3 of Mike Sando’s 2017 QB Tiers. But his injury, and the quality of his replacements, moved the Dolphins squarely out of the playoff mix.

Seems like a fair assessment. Tannehill is not Rodgers, but losing him did make the Dolphins offense regress, and the Dolphins fell out of the playoff picture because of it. In 2016, there was a loud and vocal argument was any quarterback under center for Miami would be better than Tannehill (probably the same people that chanted “We Want Moore” this season, but we will leave that alone). After 2017, that cannot be said anymore.