It’s a question befuddling Miami Dolphins fans since Dan Marino retired in ’99. Is “Player X” a franchise quarterback?
14 years and 17 quarterbacks later, we impatiently wait for the answer.
So is Ryan Tannehill a franchise quarterback? Is he a player the team can commit to and compete with — at a high level — for the next decade?
Record as Starter: 8-6 (15-15 overall)
QB Rating: 86.6 (19th)
Total QBR: 50.1 (25th)
PFF Rating: 19.1 (6th)
He’s shown drastic improvement in the second half of 2013, increasing his QB rating from 80.8 (Games 1 – 8) to 93.9 (Games 9 – 15), with eight touchdowns against two interceptions over his last three games — all victories. This is all the while playing behind a line that should have hospitalized him by Week 4. More protection is found inside a hole-punched condom wrapper.
Via Pro Football Focus, we learn Tannehill has been exceptional on intermediate passes (10-19 yards) this season.
From the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson:
“Tannehill has led his team on 17 scoring drives in the final five minutes of a half, and 8 in the final two minutes. Both lead the NFL.”
Two more wins and the Dolphins will make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when Chad Pennington and the Wildcat provided a band-aid in the form of a first-round playoff exit. Is Miami better off now than they were then? Is Tannehill moving up this depressing Dolphins QB hierarchy?
Dolphins QB Hierarchy
1. Dan Marino
2. Bob Griese
5. Chad Pennington
You’d rather have Tannehill and his future endeavors than Jay Fiedler in his prime. We’re at that point, right? Pennington creeps in at five, but can’t place higher after providing just one healthy season in Miami.
Jay was a pretty good quarterback on a team with one of the league’s best defenses. He won a lot of games, leading Miami to a 36-23 record as a starter, but Tannehill can do things physically Jay could only dream about. Ryan has the arm, the feet, and the size — and with those tools, the margin for error is much less. His accuracy and decision making are sharpening as his sample size swells.
Does he toss a haywire throw every now and then like that pick-six in Pittsburgh in Week 14? Sure, but Jay didn’t? Tom Brady, regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, had the chance to win in Miami last week and failed. It’s just the nature of the game’s most difficult position. At least Tannehill has consistently shown the mental ability to overcome his mistakes, like racking up a W in Pittsburgh despite the “unfavorable” elements.
Fiedler may have been better at improvising in the pocket, but Tannehill still has room for growth. At Texas A&M, he attempted 765 passes after switching to quarterback from receiver. In comparison, Andrew Luck attempted 1,064 and Russell Wilson attempted 1,489. All three quarterbacks are in their second year starting, but Tannehill is still an adolescent in QB years.
Proclaiming Tannehill as the third best quarterback in Dolphins history is like saying he’s the Terminator 3 of the franchise. It’s a solid movie, but T2 and T1 are in a different universe.
Just because anyone who uses the words “Tannehill” and “Marino” in the same sentence should be dropped down an elevator shaft, it doesn’t mean No. 17 can’t be a great one. It doesn’t mean he can’t make the Pro Bowl. It doesn’t mean he can’t get hot and carry his team through the playoff gauntlet.
His progress in 2013 should be celebrated. Ryan Tannehill is what the Dolphins haven’t had in a quarterback since 1999. Reasonable hope.