As we wait to see how the Miami Dolphins‘ offseason plays out, let’s continue our look back on the season that was by ranking the team’s top 20 players of 2013. Today, we’ll look at player No. 4, quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Completions percentage: 60.4
Passing yards: 3,913
Touchdowns passes: 24
Quarterback rating: 81.7
Pro Football Focus breakdown
Position rank: 7 of 42
Passing rank: 6 of 42
Run rank: 26 of 42
Drop backs: 661
Passes dropped: 33
QBR under pressure: 46.3
QBR without pressure: 94.2
QBR when blitzed: 83.8
QBR without blitz: 80.7
Why he’s No. 4
Evaluating Tannehill’s sophomore campaign by his numbers alone should lead to a fairly positive appraisal. He produced the most passing yards and touchdown passes in franchise history for any quarterback not named Dan Marino, after all.
But when you consider Tannehill made significant strides despite throwing behind the league’s worst offensive line, which surrendered a team-record 58 sacks and blocked for a bottom-seven rushing attack, and to a group of pass catchers that lost 403 yards — third most in the NFL — on dropped passes, his 2013 season becomes considerably more impressive.
Add in what was oftentimes stale play-calling from former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, and Tannehill was seemingly set up to fail during his second season. But he didn’t. He substantially improved even though the deck was stacked against him. Most encouragingly for the future of the team, Tannehill often played better the bigger the moment became, leading four fourth-quarter comeback victories.
If the Dolphins can provide him with more reliable protection, a productive rushing attack to lean on and creative play-calling from new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, there’s every reason to believe Tannehill will become the consistent franchise quarterback he’s only shown glimpses of so far.
Why he’s not higher
Although Tannehill played well down the stretch of many games, the clutch passer Dolphins fans were growing accustomed to disappeared in Weeks 16 and 17. Miami, needing one more win to qualify for its first playoff berth since 2008, was shutout by the Buffalo Bills and held to a mere seven points by the New York Jets to close out the season. It was a choke job of epic proportions that has since induced a plethora of negative narratives regarding the franchise.
It wasn’t Tannehill’s fault that his protection completely broke down in Buffalo, that his running game was nonexistent or that the Dolphins’ defense couldn’t stop the run, but he didn’t exactly do his part either. Tannehill only completed 30-of-67 passes during the final two games in which he tossed a mere one touchdown pass to three interceptions.
Take away those two dud efforts to close out the year, and there were still some flaws in Tannehill’s performance. His offensive line was beyond shoddy, but better pocket awareness could have masked the issue to a degree. Unlike many of the game’s best quarterbacks, Tannehill doesn’t naturally sense when pressure is coming or how how to avoid it when it arrives.
An inaccurate deep ball plagued him all season as well. The addition of wide receiver Mike Wallace didn’t lead to as many big plays as the Dolphins imagined, and Tannehill’s inability to hit the speedster deep was a major reason why. According to Pro Football Focus, Tannehill only connected on seven of 33 passes that extended 20 yards down the right side of the field which was Wallace’s residence. The Dolphins’ offense is in need of better protection and balance in 2014, but it also needs Tannehill to continue developing.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.