Miami Dolphin Season Rests on Ryan Tannehill

The Miami Dolphins enter 2014 season transitioning a new general manager supposedly finally on the same page with the head coach. A roster boasting the possibility of 12 rookies. The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel’s David Hyde calling for the playoffs or house-cleaning... It's the annual beginning of the season ritual for the Dolphins, boom or bust!

A dose of reality shouldn’t be difficult for the Miami faithful when considering the last Super Bowl victory was a mere forty years ago. A forty-year drought should provide enough caffeine in the wake-up-call to resist the formula of constant churn, but it’s good media. Turmoil sells, the media figured this out long ago. Unfortunately for the writers, Stephen Ross intends to stand by the men he chose to lead this team after the Parcells debacle, leaving one person with the ball clearly in his hands.

Ryan Tannehill...

Certainly, it’s a lot of burden to place on one man, but the NFL is a league dominated by the performance of one player, the quarterback. To imply there are no other problematic areas on the football team would be foolish, but the playoffs are not like the illusive forty-year drought monster. Any NFL team can make the playoffs with stellar QB play. The Dolphins have enough weapons to join the playoff ranks.

It would be quick to say this article is another stirring of the pot but the message is simple, don’t blow up all the pieces if only one is the problem. The intent is not to hand Ryan Tannehill a pink-slip stamped with a declaration of his inability to play quarterback at the NFL level. The message is for him to prove he belongs.

Boss Ross has a unique ability to see beyond the BS and make proper conclusions. Jeff Ireland’s ineptitude made it easy for Ross to see the need for a new GM. Watching Daniel Thomas and Michael Egnew hit the waiver wire certainly added credence to that decision. Given the opportunity to prove he belonged, Ireland’s top 3 picks in 2013 barely touched the field.

Mike Sherman may have been a little harder decision with the OL problems and inconsistency at QB, but it was obvious the offense lacked flair. Mike Sherman was not going to be the OC to provide a progressive scheme, with or without an OL or consistent QB. From the beginning, Ross said he wanted a high-octane NFL offense, to get there Sherman had to go. Ross gave both Ireland and Sherman the opportunity and when they failed, he fired them.

Herein lies the problem for Ryan Tannehill, Sherman
was undoubtedly  influential in the decision to draft the Texas A&M QB. In this high-stakes arena, Sherman placed his future on the line by guaranteeing Tannehill was the man for the job. Without Sherman, Tannehill would probably not be in Miami. Luckily, Stephen Ross gives opportunity before making rash decisions.

During the 2014 preseason, it was quite interesting to watch Bill Lazor’s offense. It was obvious Ross and Philbin made an excellent choice at offensive coordinator. Seeing Ja’Wuan James step in at right tackle and a Miami team sporting 12 rookies validates Dennis Hickey. These two choices have one thing in common, they go against the good-old-boy network of replacing retreads with retreads. Tannehill was not chosen by the GM and not indorsed by the OC.

Ryan Tannehill is in a precarious position this year, he needs to perform or his job is in jeopardy like Ireland and Sherman before him. Ross has done his weeding in the front office, for the moment. He is happy with the performance of the head coach he selected and he likes the GM he chose. Should the offense flounder, Tannehill stands as the fall guy if he is incapable of running Bill Lazor’s scheme.

There is a positive thread in what may be interpreted as a negative narrative, it has been a long time since the key positions off the field have been competently filled. Kevin Coyle is a good defensive coordinator and 12 rookies hints at the lack of depth on his roster (not to mention Ireland's brilliance at selecting FA linebackers). It means the churning is over for the Miami Dolphin coaching staff and front office. Stephen Ross is finally happy.

In a league dominated by QB play, Tannehill’s performance will dictate whether the Dolphins reach the playoffs. The issue is of a larger magnitude
for Ross, the playoffs are fine and dandy but the name of this game is Super Bowl. It is very difficult even for the ardent Tannehill fan to project him as a Super Bowl QB at this point in his career. Ross looks to end the forty year drought and knows Tannehill’s ability to play the position is paramount to seeing his dream become reality.

The reverse nature of sports is interesting; supposedly, great coaches and personnel people make great teams. The reality is, great players’ make great coaches and personnel people. Churning coaches and personnel people is usually a panacea for the inability of players, particularly the QB. Firing Jeff Ireland was correct… He was abysmal. Had he selected Matt Ryan instead of Jake Long, he would still be working in Miami.

Ireland Selected Ryan Tannehill…

From this perspective, it seems Ross has set this season up for Ryan Tannehill to make his statement or follow Ireland and Sherman out the door. Over the course of a season, the QB is the player most capable of influencing the win/loss column. If a team has a great QB, they win and if they don’t, they lose. There can be playoff seasons, maybe a Super Bowl or two, but long-term stability in the NFL rests squarely on the shoulders of the QB.

Miami has done everything right in nurturing Tannehill. They did not place undue pressure on him to be great, while at the same time gave him the experience of starting 32 NFL games. It is concerning, after 32 starts his future is still not obvious, but he has a shot. The Dolphins removed an OC who lacked vision and fired a GM with questionable talent evaluation skills. Now it is up to Tannehill to prove he has the ability to play quarterback at a high level in the NFL.

There is no right or wrong. There is no derogatory assessment of his ability. There is no prediction of the outcome. There is simply one variably that will lead to success or failure for the Miami Dolphins this season and his name is Ryan Tannehill. Stephen Ross gave Jeff Ireland and Mike Sherman the opportunity and they failed. It’s all a professional can ask for, an opportunity to be great.

Every Dolphin fan wonders the same question…

Can the Dolphins find a QB to slay the forty-year drought monster?

If Ryan Tannehill shows the way, house-cleaning will be forgotten in Miami…