Tannehill Tribunal: Which AFC Quarterbacks Would We Prefer to Ryan Tannehill?
As I detailed a few days ago, at this point in time Ryan Tannehill is not a worthy franchise quarterback. As I stated in part one of this column, I understand that Tannehill’s stagnant level of play is due in part to a bevy of different offensive coordinators, an inconsistent running game, and an offensive line that at best can be described as a swinging door. Still, Ryan Tannehill has shown absolutely no sign of progression in the last few years. If anything, he’s become a worse quarterback. In the article where I sifted through the quarterbacks in the NFC, I concluded that there were 11 quarterbacks that I would take over Ryan Tannehill and 5 that I would not. So, thus far I have Ryan Tannehill pegged as well below average, but there are still 15 other starting quarterbacks to sift through. So, without further delay, let’s take a gander at the quarterbacks of the AFC.
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos
By all measures, Trevor Siemian has exceeded expectations as Peyton Manning’s successor in Denver. He shows far more poise than a 1st year starter does typically and has more touch on his passes than most anticipated in the offseason. However, he hasn’t been as incredible as his stellar 4-touchdown performance against the Bengals in Week 3 may lead you to believe. In his 1st two games, he was definitely the weakness of the team, posting a subpar 1:3 TD to INT ratio. While Siemian is definitely a serviceable starter with the most talented roster in the NFL, I have strong doubts that he would have the same success in South Beach that he does in Denver.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr is widely seen as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, and for good reason. He has all of the physical talent in the world and has always shown strong poise in the face of adversity. He was named to the Pro Bowl in his second season and his 11:2 TD to INT ratio this season is a good sign that he receives that honor again this year. It’s no wonder that Joe Philbin reportedly wanted to draft him to replace Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
He has 5 Pro Bowls and may be the most underrated quarterback to play in the last decade. If anything, he would probably excel on every other team more than his injury ravaged Chargers… even the Dolphins.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith is, and always has been, the poster child for the ‘game manager’ moniker. And, typically, he’s very good at that particular job. But, I don’t think Alex Smith is suited to play in Miami any better than Tannehill is. The lack of talent on the offensive line and in the running back stable would put too much of the pressure on Smith to perform and, let’s be honest, he wouldn’t know what to do with the Dolphins’ receiver corps either. Good quarterbacks don’t go a full season without throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver.
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans
The Brock Lobster was mediocre at best in Denver and was rightfully benched in favor of Peyton Manning (who had 17 INTs in 9 games) in time for the Broncos’ Super Bowl run. That in and of itself should be indicative of his inability to run an offense. Then, John Elway passed on him in favor of the likes of Trevor Siemian and Mark Sanchez. For a quarterback of his build, he rarely pushes the ball downfield and makes too many poor decisions to be considered an adequate game manager at the NFL level. Look no further than his 6:7 TD to INT ratio, his shutout at the hands of the Patriots, his paltry 70.6 passer rating, and his inability to develop any sort of rapport with DeAndre Hopkins. Needless to say, I’d take Ryan Tannehill over a guy that turned one good game against the Patriots in primetime a year ago into a $70 million contract.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles turns over the ball more than just about any other quarterback in the NFL. But, that doesn’t matter as much so long as he continues to throw touchdowns. Physically, he meets all of the standards of franchise quarterback. Though he has at times struggled this season (79.4 passer rating, 7:6 TD to INT ratio), I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his 35 touchdown passes last year and his obvious improvement from year one to year two. It’s a close one, but I’d probably go with Bortles over Tannehill.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota had an excellent rookie campaign, totaling a 19:10 TD to INT ratio to go along with two rushing scores in just 12 games. He was poised and was a much better pocket passer than many draft analysts predicted he would be in year one. However, this year it seems as though his greatest strength, his ball protection, has evaporated. It appears that injuries have taken their toll on the young quarterback, as he looks nothing like the guy we saw a year ago. He already has 5 INTs and 3 fumbles on the year and has not shown the same willingness to run when the pocket collapses. Though his 4 touchdown effort against Miami was a positive step, he was far from the reason that Tennessee dominated on Sunday. His 4 missed games last year and below average performance this year are a big red flag. After all, the greatest ability is availability, and like it or not Ryan Tannehill has managed to remain available.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Does he turn the ball over a little too much? Absolutely. Is he the next Peyton Manning as everyone in the media pronounced a few years ago? Probably not. Is he the sole reason the Colts made it to the playoffs three straight years, including three victories and an AFC championship appearance? Yes, yes he is. At his best, Andrew Luck has looks like the second coming of Brett Favre, not to mention he’s only a year removed from a 40 touchdown campaign where he was a consensus top 5 quarterback.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Had I thought about this quandary two years ago, I would have gone with Ryan Tannehill without a problem. However, Andy Dalton has improved significantly in nearly every category over the last season and a half. He still hasn’t logged a playoff win, but his 106.2 passer rating and 25:7 touchdown to interception ratio were among the best in the league last season. Though he hasn’t been quite as impressive this season (3:2 touchdown to interception ratio and a passer rating of 93.8) due to the losses of wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson in the offseason, he has maintained an above average level of play. As Dalton has improved, Tannehill has regressed. While Tannehill undoubtedly has superior physical talent, Dalton has the clear edge in decision making, accuracy and throwing mechanics. Not to mention Dalton has helped bring his team to the playoffs for 5 straight years.
Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns
We all knew he wasn’t very good the second that the Browns drafted him. Even Miami’s defense made him look silly–Terrelle Pryor not so much, but I’ll take a win where I can get it.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The most inconsistent quarterback in league history has a Super Bowl run in which he had 11 touchdowns to 0 interceptions while defeating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get there. While he has yet to recapture that form since, he certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt that he is at least a good quarterback. That same benefit cannot be bestowed on Tannehill.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Two Super Bowls, four Pro Bowl appearances, and has only been getting better with age. Big Ben gets the no-brainer nod.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
I respect Ryan Fitzpatrick for his great 2015 season, but boy if 2016 isn’t a conflagration of rubbish. He has thrown 9(!) interceptions in the last three weeks, and there is reportedly some serious dissent in the locker room. If Fitzmagic doesn’t improve in a hurry we could see the return of the Genocoaster sooner rather than later. And, no matter how poorly Ryan Tannehill performs for the rest of the season, I can’t imagine any fate worse than that.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor is far from a polished pocket passer. He has averaged barely over 200 passing yards a game in his career and is actually below that this season at 193.2 yards per game. However, it isn’t his vertical passing game that gave him a Pro Bowl nomination in his first NFL season as a starter. Tyrod Taylor’s strengths lie in his elite athleticism and in his ability to take care of the football. What Taylor can’t do with his arm, he makes up for with his legs. His 568 yards rushing and 4 rushing touchdowns make this truth self-evident. His presence under center as a rushing threat forces defensive coordinators to tailor (get it?) their schemes specifically for the 6th year former Baltimore Raven. In addition to being a threat on the ground, Tyrod Taylor is very efficient, even if unspectacular through the air. His 20 passing touchdowns last year are fairly pedestrian, but his 6 interceptions on the year were excellent considering his inexperience as a starter. While Tyrod is hardly perfect, I believe from what I’ve seen so far that he would have greater success in Miami than Ryan Tannehill could, based on his efficiency and presence as a dual-threat.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
The greatest system quarterback of all-time figures to resumed his reign as the NFL’s second most hated figure (after Roger Goodell) this week after destroying the Cleveland Browns in one of his best games ever. #PrayForCleveland
So, there you have it. Of 31 other quarterbacks in the NFL, I’d be happy with Tannehill over just 11 of them. If I were to do a quarterback ranking, he would be around 21, just below the likes of Sam Bradford, Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor and just above Alex Smith, and youngsters Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott. However, guys like Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston and Trevor Siemian, among others, have had significantly less time to adjust to the NFL and thus have a higher ceiling. As of this moment though, Ryan Tannehill is below average either way. He is certainly a better option than basement dwellers like Cody Kessler, Case Keenum and Brock Osweiler, but changes need to be made in the future if the Dolphins are going to improve their quarterback play.
The Miami Dolphins’ best bet is to allow Tannehill to keep his starting job for the rest of the season (obviously, as if Matt Moore were seriously an option) and hope that he improves. From there I see two scenarios that could play out positively for Miami. The first involves drafting a quarterback early in the 2017 NFL Draft and have him compete with Ryan Tannehill for the starting job. This would allow the potential for new blood and thus excitement at the quarterback position for the first time in five years.
Worst case, Ryan Tannehill has to work much harder next season in order to keep his hold on the starting job. Best case, the Dolphins’ new rookie is NFL ready and the Tannehill era ends sooner rather than later. The second scenario relies heavily on the way the Minnesota Vikings’ season plays out. If Sam Bradford leads the team on a deep playoff run sans Adrian Peterson, the Vikings likely elect to keep him for the 2017 NFL season. If, and only if, this occurs, the Vikings have a high profile Pro Bowler in Teddy Bridgewater that they can use to get back the first round pick they lost in the Sam Bradford trade. The Dolphins could offer to trade for Bridgewater for what could potentially be a King’s ransom and have him compete with Tannehill for the starting job. In this unlikely scenario, Bridgewater could come back from injury and resume his career where it left off: as a Pro Bowler.
At the end of the day, Ryan Tannehill is a mediocre quarterback that has the potential to succeed, but only in the right system. But, after decades of pedestrian quarterback play, I think that Miami is long overdue for a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback. Whether this comes as a rookie in the next few years or as a blockbuster trade, one thing is abundantly clear: Ryan Tannehill is not “The Guy”.