The franchise quarterback is everything in today’s NFL.
The Miami Dolphins are no different from any other team in the NFL. It’s essentially a prerequisite for success in the NFL — if you have a franchise quarterback, your team is probably a playoff contender.
If you don’t have a franchise quarterback, chances are your team is either stuck in mediocrity or it’s preparing itself for next year’s NFL Draft.
The Dolphins are one of those teams that’s somewhere in between. It’s a definite that the team is mired in mediocrity — the Dolphins went 7-9 in 2012 and 8-8 in 2013. The team hasn’t achieved a winning season since 2008.
However, there is hope for the future. That hope is due to Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill was a 2012 first-round draft choice of the Dolphins. He has started since the very beginning of his NFL career despite not becoming a quarterback until his third season at Texas A&M.
As expected, Tannehill has gone through his ups and downs just two years into his NFL career. Despite entering the final week of the last two seasons with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth, Tannehill has been unable to lead the Dolphins into the postseason.
In 2014, Tannehill will be paired with a new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor. Lazor aided Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles‘ development. After Foles had an unimpressive rookie season in 2012, he led the NFL in QB rating in 2013.
Lazor will implement a new offensive system in Miami. The system will rely on the quarterback to make multiple reads — as many as four or five on most plays — and it will feature receivers being moved around to different spots before the snap. Which means you won’t see wide receiver Mike Wallace lined up on the right side of the hashmarks each play as you did in 2013.
This is a vital piece of information because Tannehill is used to keying on his first target. If his first target is unavailable, he loves checking down to his tight ends or running backs. It’s one of the reasons Charles Clay had a breakout season in 2013 when he caught 69 passes — just seven behind the team leader in receptions, Brian Hartline.
Tannehill’s ability to adapt to this new offensive system will be key to Miami’s success — if the third-year QB shows little trouble in Lazor’s offense, the Dolphins will be a playoff team. If he struggles in adapting to a new offensive system, the Dolphins are in big trouble.
Miami has stockpiled on receiving weapons to ensure that Tannehill has no shortage of quality targets. The Dolphins return Mike Wallace, Hartline, Clay and Brandon Gibson this season. They also acquired Jarvis Landry, Arthur Lynch and Knowshon Moreno to make life easier for Tannehill.
Ironically enough, though the Dolphins made it an objective to address the offensive skill positions, the aforementioned players likely won’t be the ones who dictate whether or not Tannehill is able to succeed making multiple reads in Lazor’s offensive system.
The key will be how the offensive line blocks for Tannehill, and whether the line gives the young quarterback enough time to make those multiple reads.
Tannehill was sacked an NFL-leading 58 times last season. It was a franchise record for sacks allowed in a single season.
The offensive line has been remade entering 2014, as Branden Albert takes over at left tackle. The Dolphins will have either Dallas Thomas or Billy Turner at left guard, while first-round draft pick JuWuan James takes over at right tackle.
The Dolphins’ team success combined with Tannehill’s individual success won’t just depend on the quarterback himself — it will be contingent on how cohesive the offensive line is as the 2014 season progresses.
If the O-line can give Tannehill enough time to make his multiple reads — unlike in 2013 — the Dolphins will be playing deep into January for the first time in six years.