The Ryan Tannehill Apologist Narrative

The unfortunate circumstance of Ryan Tannehill’s imminent rise to league-wide respectability is that all the credit will go directly to Adam Gase. That’s one of the prevailing premises of the National Football League though – these professionals can’t allow ego to interrupt their overcoming of obstacles. I’m a frequent listener of various football podcasts and diligent consumer of various .com content from around the internet. Ryan Tannehill is perpetually viewed as a mediocre quarterback making me the outcast on the topic. It’s been that way since the beginning, though.

I was in on Ryan Tannehill as much as Mike Shanahan was with the Redskins when he later said he preferred the Texas A&M product over selling his next three drafts for Bob Griffin. He played with anticipation, an understanding of the route tree and had incredible arm talent. All of these things remain true.

Pundits want to harp on the fact that he’s a converted wide receiver despite the fact that the only time he played wide out in his life was the two years in College Station when he was the backup quarterback. Rather than holding a clipboard, he decided to be an all-conference receiver, what an asshole, I know.

He has come under much scrutiny in his career for a lack of team accomplishments. The Dolphins, under his watch, are what they’ve consistently been for the last two decades – a mediocre franchise that is never among the worst, but never anywhere near the elite.

That’s my argument for the 6 foot 4 strong armed quarterback with exceptional straight line speed. He has flirted with putting numbers in the top 10, but never show us Jake Locker or Blaine Gabbert like disappointment like many of his prognosticators would have you believe.

Quarterbacks are forced to shoulder the brunt of the blame for all the wrong-doings within an organization. A receiver drops a pass that leads to a pick, the quarterback gets blamed. A backup left tackle gets burned on a speed rush and drills the quarterback across his name-plate, bring in the backup passer. It’s the nature of the business and I understand this team hasn’t won a big game under #17.

But that will all change in the near future.

Tannehill does not make many poor decisions. His propensity for miserable games (three or more turnovers) is basically non-existent. He plays within the confines of what he has and understand that a kick is better than an interception. In 2014, he didn’t have a single three turnover game. Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Drew Brees cannot lay stake to that 16 game streak throughout their careers.

One self-proclaimed quarterback guru credited Dolphins receivers with 63 failed receptions a year ago (ranking 2nd highest in the league) and attributed eight of Tannehill’s 12 interceptions to his receivers.

tannehill sacked
Tannehill has spent more time on his back than vivid video’s most tenured actress.



KC Joyner, formally of ESPN and currently with PFF, created a bad decision calculator where he evaluates each snap of every quarterback and measures when the quarterback makes a heinous decision. Tannehill’s 0.7 bad decision percentage ranked tied for third in football in 2015 with Aaron Rodgers.

That has been the story of his career – those around him letting him down. That doesn’t even delve into the fact that his offensive line play has been among the worst in the business the four years he has played in Miami. With pass blocking efficiency never climbing higher than 24th in the league in that time, Tannehill has been sacked more than any other quarterback since entering the league in 2012.

The offensive line has featured some of the lowest graded players in terms of film study and hits allowed divided by pass protection snaps. Marc Colombo, Tyson Clabo and Jason Fox have all seen their careers come to an end following their pitiful stints with the Dolphins. Then there’s Jonathan Martin who went on to steal some paychecks from the 49ers before calling it quits and Dallas Thomas who should be prosecuted for assisting in assault for the things he’s allowed to happen to the Miami quarterback.

Despite the punishment received, and a story about him urinating blood from repeated body abuse at the tail end of the 2015 season surfaced. Tannehill displayed the toughness you’d expect from a player that does his work in the trenches keeping his possible games started streak at an impressive 64 out of 64.

This line has not been without some good players over the course of Tannehill’s career. Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey have made pro-bowls and Ja’Wuan James has been a more than serviceable right tackle. The issue with these three is health. Of the 32 possible games for this combination to be on the field, they’ve been together for seven. In this seven games, Miami is 6-1 averaging almost 28 points per game.

San Diego Chargers v Miami Dolphins
Tannehill is poised to benefit from new coach Adam Gase’s tutelage.

Some areas of weakness in his game include pocket presence and knowing when to take shots down the field. These are traits that need to get better, I won’t deny that one iota. But I will tell you that there is a light at the end of these crippling tunnels. It’s feasible to attribute some of the pocket presence issues to playing behind horrible offensive lines his whole career. As for the missed receivers down the field, he was drilled early in his career by offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, not to take the big risks. Sometimes, deprogramming a player of bad habits can take a few years.

Enter Adam Gase.

The new head coach of the Dolphins has helped carve out some of the best reclamation projects (Jay Cutler in 2015 and Tim Tebow in 2011) as well as partnered with the Sherriff, Peyton Manning, in sculpting one the NFL’s most prolific offense in the history of the league.

I know this all sounds like a bunch of excuses you’ve heard before with Chad Henne, John Beck, Jay Fiedler, the list goes on. But the fact remains that I’ve seen more elite level throws from Ryan Tannehill than I saw from all the other post-Marino quarterbacks this team has desperately trotted out there. His arm talent is off the charts, he hardly ever makes disparaging mental errors, and he is one tough son of a bitch. If this organization can stop the bleeding immediately the way the 49ers did with the surrounding cast around Alex Smith, you will finally see Tannehill enjoy some success and recognition. Along with those things comes team success and playoff games.

Maybe he’s not the Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers type that can win games on his own regardless of the junior varsity team put around him. But there are what, maybe 15-20 of those guys in the existence of the game? You’d think Miami fans would have some perspective after two decades of quarterbacking near the level of Cleveland Browns futility.

He’s going to need to tackle some of those barriers to justify the spike in his contract in the 2017 season. This team friendly deal will cost the team $11.6 million against the cap in 2016 which ranks him as the 22nd highest paid quarterback in football. There’s no questions that Tannehill ranks, at very least, in the top 20 among quarterbacks.

Now when that number spikes to $20 million and he’s the seventh highest paid signal caller, we’re going to need more than his two to one touchdown to interception ratio we’ve grown accustomed to. Context is important here as there are nine quarterbacks below him on that list within $2 million so the money saved in 2016 really makes this thing even out to making him the 16th highest cap hit in the league over the next two years – very good all things considered.

He’s thrown 51 touchdowns and 24 interceptions the last two years combined. The team has been competitive in most games he’s played in. He’s dealt with the horrendous coaching of Joe Philbin, Bill Lazor, Mike Sherman and Zac Taylor. Almost all of the good quarterbacks in the league today are on the plus side of 30 years old. Tannehill turns 28 just after this publication. He’s going to be the quarterback for the Dolphins for a long time and he’s going to have success.

Contact Travis Wingfield:


Twitter: @twingfield2


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  1. Nice and informative writing so far Travis. A pure joy to read. Thank you for the time and effort that you are putting in to bring us good constructive journalism and information. I can tell you as one of the biggest and longest Dolphins fans in history, I can never get enough info to read about my beloved Dolphins. I also very much enjoy reading accurate info and I always like your fairness in your writings on the Dolphins rather good or bad news. As long as it is the truth, that is what matters. I have plenty of time on my hands and if I can ever be of any help to you gathering info or research, please let me know @ Regards, Marshall Summerlin. Dolphin fan since inception 1966. Also, I like how you have stuck with Tanny throughout his tenure here, both good and bad and I think that maybe this year you along with all of us will see his completely talent set finally take fruition here now that ” Milque Toast Joe” is gone and he now has what I believe to be our next long term coach in charge of the Dolphins who will not only be a great finishing mentor to Ryan, (along with Clyde Christiansen, Dan Marino, and the new QB Coach), but Gase will allow Ryan the leeway to finally bring out the best of him that we will start seeing this year. I feel he has a very high upside still to come as long as he brings confidence, intelligence, enthusiasm, and LEADERSHIP to the table this year and I really believe that him being able to change in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage this year will be a huge benefit for him and our offense. I am really so zero tolerance when it comes to abuse issues, but I also know that we have a team that really needs additional cheaper talent to help overcome some of the stupid losses to our team from the likes of Philbin, Tannenbaum and others. Two very controversial players that could help us immediately and have been working, honestly at making manners so far for the last 1 1/2-2 years are Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. As I said, there is no excuse for their past actions but along with many hundreds of other players who have made huge mistakes, it might really benefit the Dolphins to see if these are changed men…..just like many believe Dion Jordan to be? Do you think it possible for you to write a pro/con article here in perceptible on what the costs/benefits might be if we were to add these two? Thank you either way and keep up the great work!

  2. Lol you apologists are soo funny. I could write an essay about Tannehills lack of pocket presence. His lack of leadership. His lack of ability to process a defense both before and after the snap. And to me the ONE biggest thing that CANNOT be denied. THE MAN DOESN’T WIN FOOTBALL GAMES. I could deal with ALL of the other things but he doesn’t win. Proove me wrong if you think he’s a winner and leader of men

  3. Oh and one more thing the offensive line excuse is about the funniest I’ve heard. No denying the o line has been pretty bad but if that’s the case why does Ryan continually take sacks when he gets a 4 or 5 sec pocket? Go watch the film yea he gets hit early but why then on the plays he does get a pocket (again watch film you will see it) does he still take sacks?

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