The Miami Dolphins are entering the third phase of the “Tannehill project” — the time when QB Ryan Tannehill either becomes an elite starter, or proves himself another in a long line of disappointing successors to Dan Marino.
This phase took an unexpected turn when Mike Sherman, the Dolphins’ former offensive coordinator, was fired after his offense put up just seven points in the final two games of the season. Sherman has been Tannehill’s coach since 2007, going back to their days at Texas A&M.
Tannehill had shown vast improvement in his sophomore campaign and had been on pace to improve his QB rating by more than 10 points from his rookie year. Then, the (almost) unthinkable happened.
The Dolphins, as stated earlier, put up only seven points in the two most important games of the year, which — among other things — led to Mike Sherman being fired.
Tannehill completed less than 50 percent of his passes for a mere 286 yards and threw three interceptions in the two games, which would have sent the Dolphins to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Tannehill’s inability to put the team on his shoulders and drag his troops out of the mud is very real, and very concerning. Make whatever excuse you want, but when things aren’t working for the Dolphins, you rarely see Tannehill pull his team out of it.
There were other factors that lead to those losses, but we’ll discuss those in later unit assessments.
Tannehill’s deep ball still needs work if the Dolphins want to get the full return on the investment they made in speedy receiver Mike Wallace. Tannehill also needs work on his pocket presence, his ability to feel the rush, and slide away from it. Although with pro bowl LT Branden Albert, Tannehill won’t have as many defenders in his face when he throws the ball.
Alright, now that the negatives are out of the way, let’s re-focus on the positives.
Tannehill’s improvement last year was obvious. He outdueled Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in 2013, all but one of those games having been decided by a 4th quarter score.
Bill Lazor, the Dolphins new OC, is expected to work closely to mold Tannehill and teach him the nuances of the position. Lazor has been credited with developing Nick Foles into the NFL’s top rated QB last season when he was the QB coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The question still lingers — will Tannehill be able to absorb Lazor’s offense, the first new offense he has played in since 2007?
New GM Dennis Hickey has made rebuilding the offensive line a point of emphasis and signed the aforementioned Albert within the first minutes of free agency. The “I’d like to see you throw with a guy in your face after two seconds” excuse won’t work anymore. We will finally get a true “sink or swim” evaluation.
The Dolphins might need to consider taking a QB in the middle rounds of the draft to develop or even compete with Tannehill. Not only that, but both of the Dolphins backup QBs only have one year left on their contracts.
I like Tannehill, and I believe in him; I hope he breaks the long standing “Marino curse.” Tannehill is set up to rise in the future, but it’s up to him to take the next step to complete phase three of the “Tannehill project.”