Ryan Tannehill was named the Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback for the team's season-opener at the Houston Texans. "This is the best decision we can make at the given time," coach Joe Philbin said. With those simple words, the Ryan Tannehill era officially began in Miami.
Philbin decided to honor the statement that he would name a starter prior to the third preseason game. He fully understands, he does not want to appear indecisive in his first real decision as an NFL head coach. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have not looked much like the team that ended 2011 with a 6-3 record in the final 9 games. It’s the preseason and there is not much panic in Green Bay, even though the Packers are also 0-2, but Miami fans are on the edge.
It’s an exaggeration to say the team is a work in progress after their performance in the first two pre-season games but being overlooked is how the play selection will change when the regular season starts. Against Carolina, the Dolphins passed 58 times and rushed 12, against Tampa Bay Miami threw the ball 50 times while rushing 15. In two preseason games, Miami has thrown the ball 108 times while only rushing 27 times.
These numbers are indicative of what Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman are trying to understand about their roster, who is going to throw and who is going to catch. Today we learned, Ryan Tannehill will do the pitching, but the catchers are a much harder question for the Dolphins. The two players with the big name, Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson are gone, but not of their own accord, Joe Philbin showed them the door.
Philbin is doing something not seen in Miami since Dan Marino teamed up with Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, he is finding a combination that can grow up together. Marshall and to lesser degree Johnson were not a fit for a rookie QB, there would have been too much pressure from those individuals to get their stats.
It means Tannehill has been in the plan since David Garrard’s knee gave out. Chad Johnson made it easy with his foolishness, but if Garrard had remained healthy, Johnson more than likely would still be here. The knee also answered the questionable wisdom of relying on a 34-year-old QB. Most telling is what these decisions say about what the coaching staff thinks of Matt Moore. Obviously, Moore has not performed anywhere near where they had hoped and they realize, he will not be the future in Miami.
By passing 108 times, Philbin and Sherman were able to get the 12 receivers on the roster into game situations and make real evaluations. Reading between the lines, the coaches are not too worried about the backs getting carries clearly, they are impressed with Bush, Thomas and Miller enough to keep them healthy while they find some receivers.
Bess is a starter, and perhaps Hartline’s injury is not quite as urgent as finding the other four guys who will man the receiving corps when the team cuts down to 53. The team also has a rookie right tackle who needs plenty of reps to acclimate to the speed of NFL pass rushers, what better way then to throw the ball in meaningless games.
Miami has not looked good to this point, but it may be different when the game plan includes a balanced offense. Defenses have been sitting back in cover two and teeing off with the rush because they are aware of what Joe Philbin is doing. They are not going to sit in base run defenses when Miami is making it clear their objective is to throw the ball.
That will change this week and the receivers that have not stepped up, will be stepping out, fans will see more Chris Hogan and less of Legedu Naanee, more Julius Pruitt and less Roberto Wallace, more Rishard Matthews and less Clyde Gates, more Jeff Fuller and less BJ Cunningham. There was a method behind the madness and it forced players in focused positions to show what they were made of.
When asked about the inexperience of his receiver corps, Philbin insisted that’s “part of your fun” as a coach, developing players and the good ones “come in all shapes and sizes.” He added, “I’m not concerned about the lack of star power right now. I will be concerned if we’re not able to develop some of the players we have on the roster. I have optimism that we’ll be able to do that, and I’m confident we can.”
The methodical approach to sorting out his weak spots, is what Miami fans have to look forward to with Joe Philbin and what could make him a successful coach in the NFL. There was clearly a plan in what he wanted to accomplish early in the preseason. The Dolphins will not make the playoffs with a rookie QB, they may not even win five games, but the future will be very clear.
Welcome to the Tannehill era Miami fans, but the real key to whether Ryan Tannehill is successful in Miami will be because Joe Philbin will cut Chad Johnson just as sure as he will promote Chris Hogan. It may take a year, but the Dolphins are on the right path with Joe Philbin and Sherman not repeating Parcells’ and Sparano’s mistake, they are all in with Ryan Tannehill.
It's a new era in Miami...