After exemplifying steady improvement during his second season under center despite a shoddy offensive line and an oftentimes nonexistent rushing attack, quarterback Ryan Tannehill appears to be on the right track to becoming the long-term answer at the position for the Miami Dolphins.
One would assume that head coach Joe Philbin would be confident in his young quarterback’s ability to continue developing in year three. But a recent report from CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora may suggest otherwise.
“He definitely wants to push Tannehill more,” a source close to Philbin told Canfora, “and if he doesn’t see improvement he said he might go to Moore at some point. He definitely has a lot of faith in Moore, and they’re paying him a lot of money.”
Canfora has long been critical of the Dolphins’ organization, so it’s unclear whether or not his latest work is merely an attempt to continue piling on the team with a negative narrative. But with Philbin’s tendency to become enthralled with players who possess strong leadership qualities, it’s not difficult to believe that he’s higher on backup quarterback Matt Moore than he should be.
Moore is a strong leader. He has the team-first mindset that Philbin would like each of his players to embody, but he’s nothing more than a solid backup who can step in when need be. He’ll likely never be an above average starter.
Tannehill, on the other hand, owns the necessary tools to eventually emerge as an elite quarterback. The size, the arm strength, the athleticism — it’s all there. Now, he may never live up to that potential. Issues like shaky deep-ball accuracy and poor pocket presence held Tannehill back during his sophomore campaign and could continue to do so in the future.
But he’s flashed enough promise to remain the unquestioned starter in 2014. He deserves 16 more starts. That could change if Tannehill regresses next season, but Philbin’s priority right now should be surrounding his young quarterback with a better supporting cast, not contemplating prematurely pulling the plug on his tenure.
Because benching Tannehill would be the epitome of premature. Most young quarterbacks would have crumbled in the situation he was put in this past season. No quarterback was sacked more than Tannehill — not just around the league in 2013, but in team history. Only six quarterbacks had a less effective running game to lean on. And former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman didn’t exactly put Tannehill and the offense in ideal position to succeed with a transparent pre-snap cadence and predictable play-calling.
Yet Tannehill still managed to produce more passing yards and touchdown passes in a single season than any quarterback in franchise history not named Dan Marino. Sure, the game has evolved and most of the quarterbacks who donned the aqua and orange after No. 13 retired were of the mediocre at best variety. But Tannehill’s production was promising as was his stellar play down the stretch of several games — leading four fourth-quarter comeback victories.
Tannehill deserves the opportunity to play with a supporting cast that is, well, supportive. Only then will the Dolphins know what they truly have in him. And only then can they adequately determine if it’s time to move on or keep investing in him as the future.
Canfora reporting Philbin wants to “push” Tannehill more next season doesn’t mean the third-year head coach doesn’t agree with those sentiments. It was Philbin, after all, who decided to start Tannehill as a rookie over Moore.
But if there is a hint of truth to the notion that Philbin’s confidence in Tannehill is wavering, which may or may not be the case, it would be more of an indictment on the head coach than the quarterback.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.