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Ryan Tannehill’s Finest Hour

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It has taken six seasons, one of which he didn’t even play in, but Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has finally assumed his place in the upper echelon of QBs in the National Football League. Three games into the 2018 regular season, Tannehill is ranked fourth among all quarterbacks, in terms of the all important QB rating, and just last weekend, he brought the Dolphins back from a fourth quarter deficit to beat the Oakland Raiders, in a game Miami probably had no business winning.

Cynics can point out that two of his three touchdown passes in that game traveled no more than three feet in the air before his teammates ran them in for scores, but people can say what they want; they still count as touchdown passes, and even without them, his rating would still be well North of a hundred. What’s more, Tannehill has become even more of a leader, on and off the field this year, which is saying something. Charged with the unenviable task of turning around a moribund franchise when he arrived as a first round pick in 2012, his career has not been without its bumps along the way. Heck, prior to the 2012 draft, I wanted Miami to take Brandon Weeden. Weeden, who will be 35 next month, hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2015. Having had to deal with a new offensive coordinator virtually every year until recently, he’s done pretty much everything his team has asked of him, dating back to his years at Texas A&M.

It has to have been a strange journey for Tannehill. His college coach, Mike Sherman, who would later become his OC with the Dolphins, saw fit to elevate one Jerrod Johnson to A&M’s starting quarterback, over Tannehill, in 2009. For the record, Johnson has never played in an NFL regular season game, nor even been listed on an NFL team’s 53 man roster. During his early years with the Dolphins, Ryan was known primarily for two things: being the NFL’s most sacked QB and for being the league’s most coddled quarterback. In 2013, the team allowed starting corner Sean Smith, a second round pick in 2009 and reliable starter at the position, to leave in free agency, so that they could sign WR Brian Hartline to a lucrative contract extension. Smith would go on to play five more NFL seasons with Kansas City and Oakland while Hartline would last only two more years in Miami, despite signing a five year deal, with 2.5 million in guaranteed money. Also in 2013, the Dolphins signed former Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace to a five year, sixty million dollar deal. Wallace would last only two years with the Dolphins. In the 2014, ‘15 and ‘16 drafts, the Dolphins became the only team in NFL history to spend a first, a second, three thirds and a fourth round pick on wide receivers in a three year period.

Fast forward to the present day. With mostly late round draft picks and relatively inexpensive free agents, the Dolphins suddenly have one of the most feared passing attacks in the league, and Tannehill is obviously a major reason why. Always careful with the football, he has taken his game to a new level thus far this season, which is even more remarkable when you consider that he hadn’t played in a regular season game since December 2016, until three weeks ago. Regardless of the controversy he has been at the center of in Miami in years past, there is little argument as to his value to the Dolphins today. The two best things that have ever happened to him may have been turning thirty, and no longer being viewed as a guy who has to be the savior of the franchise. With an improved defense and running game, Ryan Tannehill is making a very strong case for being the quarterback of this team for the foreseeable future. I’m glad he’s finally having some real success on the field, because, as an all around good guy, he’s someone we should all want to root for. It’s an exciting time to be a Dolphin fan.