Miami Dolphins: Team is Smart in Its Support of Ryan Tannehill

Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports

It may be only February, but the Miami Dolphins are already showing their support of Ryan Tannehill as the franchise quarterback. New general manager Dennis Hickey chose a symbolic way of showing his support of Tannehill as the team’s franchise QB by buying his son, Barrett, a Tannehill jersey. It was another way of saying that the organization is fully behind Tannehill in its support of the third-year quarterback.

In a way, the Texas A&M product faces a make-or-break season in his third year in the NFL. The former eighth overall pick has improved in his two seasons in Miami, but he has failed to lead the Dolphins to a playoff berth, or even a winning record. Compared to his peers — quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III — Tannehill hasn’t come close to replicating their type of success. All four of the aforementioned quarterbacks have led their teams to the playoffs, with Wilson and Kapernick having led each of their teams to the Super Bowl.

At the same time, however, all four of those quarterbacks had better supporting casts than what Tannehill has been dealt. In the cases of Wilson and Kaepernick, they have had had top-tier defenses during their first couple of years starting in the NFL. Griffin had running back Alfred Morris, who was second in the NFL in rushing yards in 2012 when the Washington Redskins clinched a playoff berth under Griffin’s lead.

Tannehill has had solid defenses — the Dolphins ranked eighth in the NFL in points per game allowed on defense in 2013 — but the running game has been non-existent, and the offensive line has been downright pitiful. The Dolphins allowed 58 sacks in 2013, a franchise record and the worst mark in the NFL last season. The running game ranked in the bottom six in the league in rushing yards, led by Lamar Miller‘s 709 yards.

There have been positives and negatives to Tannehill’s young career so far. Some of the positives of Tannehill’s game is his moxie and ability to perform in clutch situations. Tannehill led four comebacks in 2013, which was the second-best mark in the NFL. In spite of the worst offensive line in the NFL and one of the worst running games to top things off, Tannehill led the Dolphins within a victory from clinching their first playoff berth in five years.

Then you look at the negatives — Tannehill’s lack of pocket awareness contributed to some of those 58 sacks the Dolphins suffered as a team in 2013. That lack of pocket awareness cost the Dolphins when they fell 23-21 to the Buffalo Bills in Week 7. A fumble by Tannehill, caused by defensive end Mario Williams late in the fourth quarter, led to Buffalo’s game-winning field goal.

Another puzzling negative was Tannehill’s lack of chemistry with receiver Mike Wallace throughout the season. Although Wallace started to come on later in the season, the quarterback and receiver continued to lack cohesion as the season came to a close. As was the case for most of the year, Tannehill misfired on a deep pass to Wallace that would have resulted in a touchdown in Miami’s 20-7 loss to the New York Jets in Week 17.

With all of those things said, Tannehill has shown enough to be given the keys to the Dolphins’ starting quarterback position for a third season. For most teams with a young quarterback, the organization will bring in a veteran or rookie quarterback to compete with the returning starting quarterback in the hopes that it will motivate the starter to improve.

The Dolphins won’t need to do that in 2014. With Matt Moore returning as backup quarterback, Tannehill will be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback next season. There will be no quarterback competition next summer.

However, if Tannehill fails to lead the Dolphins to a playoff berth next season, there will be no certainty that the Texas A&M product will be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback come 2015.