Protect the Hill: Why Ryan Tannehill Is Not to Blame for Miami’s Struggles
Heading into this season, Ryan Tannehill was the answer. Fans expected him to take a huge jump, and thought he would be able to overcome the adversity of a poor offensive line to lead this team to victories. Unfortunately, we did not predict how bad this line would be. Unfortunately, people have begun to heap blame onto Ryan Tannehill, who has done nothing but tough out poor o-line play, and a nonexistent running attack. Tannehill is not the problem folks…he is the solution.
We all saw Ryan Tannehill’s jersey following the game against Buffalo. The Dolphins’ quarterback was covered in grass stains and dirt head to toe. He walked lightly on an ankle we already knew was injured to the locker room in defeat, once again knowing he would have to accept blame for struggles he knows do not fall onto his shoulders.
Some fans want to casually glance at the stats and say “Tannehill three INTs, that’s way too many”, or “we need a quarterback who can win games, not a loser.” These are the misguided beliefs of those who do not want to take a deeper look at this team and realize that the answer is not a skill position player. The answer is up front, on the offensive line. This group is not capable of protecting the quarterback, and even worse cannot open up running lanes.
The lack of potential for dynamic play calling within the offense falls squarely on the team’s play at the line. If the team cannot establish the run, then there is no way that they can continuously call plays that will allow for good time of possession or sustained drives. With no real threat of a ground attack, there is no threat of a play action. The best way to buy time behind a poor offensive line is with play action passes. We saw it yesterday from Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor had years to drop back and throw the football. That is because the defense was focused on committing resources to the ground attack.
Next, it is important to take a look at the quarterbacks Miami had before Ryan Tannehill was drafted. Yes, it’s easy to place blame on the quarterback because he is the most visible face of the team, but it is irresponsible to do so. Think about the rest of the passers in the NFL. I am not going to rank all of them here, but it is hard to say that Tannehill is outside of the top 14 players at the position in the league. Now, think about the risk of going without Tannehill. What could we end up with? Think about teams like Cleveland and Houston. An even better way to think about this is by looking at the Bills. How good could Rex Ryan’s team be with Ryan Tannehill at the helm? That is a truly scary thought given the outcome of yesterday’s game with Tyrod Taylor quarterbacking for Buffalo. What could Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, or Bill Belichick do with the Dolphins’ fourth-year passer? I sincerely hope I never find out. Ryan Tannehill has been consistently breaking Dolphins records, and is building his case as the best quarterback Miami has had since Dan Marino. Many would argue he has already established himself as such. Now, some can ask for the team to find a new quarterback, but they must take a step back and remember the old cliche, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” I’ll keep rolling the dice with Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill has shown immense toughness throughout his entire career with Miami. He has been one of the most frequently abused QBs in the league, ranking in the top 10 for sacks in each of his four seasons. In 2012, he was the number one, taking 58 sacks (the tenth most any QB has taken in a single season). In 2013, he was the third most sacked. It would have been easy for him to give in several times and sit out due to knee and ankle injuries he has sustained. But he plays through them. Ryan Tannehill doesn’t take the easy way out either. He is not known to shy away from contact, and consistently hangs in the pocket to make throws despite taking huge shots by doing so. That is the type of spirit this team needs. It isn’t about a flashy quarterback, or just putting up huge numbers. In my mind, it is about showing a devotion and commitment to helping your team win no matter what. After seeing the effort he put into yesterday’s game, it is clear to me that Ryan Tannehill is committed to leading Miami to victories.
Another tidbit worth noting is that Miami really can’t even move on from Ryan Tannehill. Coaches’ contracts? They mean nothing. Players’ contracts? Those are tougher. Even if the team wanted to move on from Tannehill (which they don’t), it wouldn’t be until 2017 that they could do so. Then, his dead-money cap hit dips to $6.9 million. So even though that isn’t remotely within the realm of possibility, I hope it’ll keep some people quiet.
Fans seem to forget very quickly their own defense of another past Dolphins’ quarterback who struggled to win big games. Yes, the excuse we give for Dan Marino is that the teams he had weren’t good enough to win. I am not saying that Ryan Tannehill is going to be Dan Marino (so slow down on the comment you were writing in your head), but I am saying that we need to look at the team that he has before claiming he is the problem. It’s unfortunate, because we are wasting Ryan Tannehill. He is being beaten and battered thanks to a mediocre offensive line that the team has a general refusal to rebuild it. The same fans who defend past Dolphins’ quarterbacks by claiming they didn’t have enough weapons or a decent offense are now neglecting to look at the same factors when considering whether or not Tannehill is to blame for their current struggles. Once again, I am not comparing Marino and Tannehill. It is simply worth noting that a similar line of thinking can be applied here. If I get a single comment in which I am blasted for “comparing Marino and Tannehill” I’m going to be angrier than Jeff Ireland watching tape of Michael Egnew.
I have not even mentioned the amount of turnover since Tannehill’s rookie season in terms of receivers. Jarvis Landry is the first receiver to really grow and develop chemistry with Tannehill, and it took four years for him to get a true primary option. So, without consistent receivers, an even remotely acceptable offensive line, or any running game, how can we blame the quarterback? Because it is unfortunately the easy thing to do. Ryan Tannehill is not the reason that this team is losing. He is putting in as much, if not more effort than anyone else on this football team. It is hard for me to imagine how anyone could possibly believe that he is the main reason that this team is 1-2.
Ryan Tannehill could have chosen to walk in free agency. He would have commanded much more money than he received from Miami had he gone to the open market. He could have chosen a team with a better offensive line, or a group that had a more stable regime. No, he chose to stay with us. How often does someone choose the Miami Dolphins? We have been spurned constantly by coaches, players, and executives alike. Why do we not show some appreciation when we are finally chosen? Ryan Tannehill wanted the Miami Dolphins. And the Miami Dolphins and their fans should want him as well.