Why the Dolphins’ First, Round-One QB in 29 Years Ultimately Failed
UPDATE – Ryan Tannehill has been traded to the Tennessee Titans. He has agreed to a one-year contract with Tennessee to backup another disappointing first-round Quarterback in Marcus Mariotta. Miami sends its sixth-round (pick 188) pick along with Tannehill to Tennessee in exchange for the Titans 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick (pick 235).
“Ryan Tannehill has an extremely strong arm and throws a tight spiral. He can make every NFL throw and his outstanding athleticism translates well to the football field”
The physical traits were unanimously marveled at by scouts and pundits alike back in the 2012 NFL Draft. With elite velocity on the most difficult throws, and athleticism to burn the defense with his legs, it was never an issue of physical shortcomings for Ryan Tannehill.
So why didn’t it work out in Miami? Why did it take the Dolphins seven years to make a decision on the former eighth overall pick in 2012? Why were the flashes of brilliance met by maddening moments of head-scratching valleys?
“You’re going to get everyone fired.”
That was a direct quote pulled from a heated exchange between former Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor and Tannehill from the 2015 season. It was later revealed that Lazor often put together his game plans without the input of his starting quarterback – a rather mind-boggling approach in a league driven by preparation.
In hindsight, seven years in, Lazor was right. Tannehill lasted the better part of a decade in Miami. He survived four play-callers, two head coaches, and three general managers.
Turn on any Dolphins game from those seven years and its more-likely-than-not that the broadcaster will remind the viewer that Tannehill was a receiver-turned-quarterback at Texas A&M.
Of course, Tannehill was always a quarterback. He was recruited to play quarterback, he practiced as a quarterback, and participated in the quarterback meetings. Rather than sit on the bench as a freshman and sophomore, Tannehill decided to contribute as a wide out at College Station.
But you wouldn’t know about his time spent as a quarterback from his playing style. Tannehill often missed reads, misidentified robbers or disguises in coverage, and was regularly guilty of the back-breaking mistake. Any time Tannehill faced a Rex Ryan Buffalo Bills defense, or the Baltimore Ravens under Dean Peas, it resulted in a loss and multiple turnovers by the quarterback (coaches known for disguised coverage and intense pressure packages).
Tannehill’s off-field exploits as a biology major in college, and aspiring orthopedic surgeon post-playing career, convinced the Phins’ faithful that he was an astute quarterback between the ears.
Studying, however, only shows a discipline for the job – it’s not an indicator that the player can apply the practical knowledge in a game-situation. It’s one thing to know how the play is designed and what the coverage is supposed to do against that design, but it’s entirely another to process new information in the heat of the moment.
Even in year-seven, Tannehill struggled with this aspect of the game.
— DolphinsQBgifs (@DolphinsQBgifs) March 10, 2019
Detractors will point back to the embarrassing moment on HBO’s Hard Knocks when Tannehill wasn’t aware of the divisional alignment.
— DolphinsQBgifs (@DolphinsQBgifs) March 10, 2019
It’s unfair to derive, from this video, that Tannehill would never be able to put things together from a processing standpoint. Though it is evident that he’s measured in his approach. Like a lot of the book-smart population, Tannehill takes a beat longer to process what he’s learned and how to quickly apply it to the situation at hand. The lack of feel, or a lack of natural instincts to play the position, can slow reactions by a half-second – an eternity in the world of football.
A better snapshot of Tannehill’s poor decision making in the line-of-fire, a clip from the same episode of Hard Knocks. Wearing his red quarterback practice jersey, Tannehill takes off on a broken play and lunges for a first down.
— DolphinsQBgifs (@DolphinsQBgifs) March 10, 2019
Not only is Tannehill unaware of how massively ignorant that decision was in the moment, he doesn’t process the advice of veteran Quarterback David Garrard after the fact.
Those clips, on their own, are anecdotal at best. Fortunately, hindsight gives us seven years of applicable examples.
An example of a less-than-ideal locker room presence was offered on social media Thursday. A peak behind the curtain regarding Tannehill’s unpopularity among former Dolphin teammates was issued by. fellow 2012 classmate, Olivier Vernon. Vernon’s defense of Robert Quinn left Tannehill in the wake and provided the bat signal for Mike Wallace and Sean Smith to disparage the soon-to-be former Dolphins Quarterback.
Hmm 🤔… Sorry sir but what has Tannehill done compared to Robert Quinn? A solidified pass rusher that plays the right side. For the ppl that don’t know ( that’s the best OT’s on the offensive line ). Don’t disrespect Quinn like that sir! They’re in different boats 🚣🏽♂️! https://t.co/oSU2u7oa1T
— Olivier Vernon (@oliviervernon54) March 14, 2019
Lol they have the quiet man talking it’s real out here 😂😂😂
— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) March 14, 2019
We already covered Bill Lazor’s less-than-impressed sentiment towards the leader of his 2014 and 2015 offense.
It was widely known that Tannehill’s best, most translatable trait at an early age was his ability to throw from outside the pocket. Still, Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman prohibited Tannehill from playing outside the framework and structure of the offense.
Tannehill was accurate on 81% of his throws outside the pocket vs. 70% on cumulative throws during his rookie season. Still, Sherman called plays that rolled Tanenhill outside, by design, less than 6% of the time. That number, miraculously, decreased in year-two prior to Sherman’s dismissal.
— DolphinsQBgifs (@DolphinsQBgifs) March 11, 2019
Fast-forward to 2016 when Adam Gase brought his complex version of the Earhardt & Perkins scheme (previously perfected by Peyton Manning) to Miami. The Dolphins stumbled to a 1-4 start and the offense sputtered in back-to-back low-scoring performances against the Bengals and Titans respectively.
Then, in week six against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gase adapted his offense to a 12-personnel-heavy, play-action attack. Tannehill and the offense took off under back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances by Jay Ajayi.
Miami would win seven of the next eight games and Tannehill’s passer rating eclipsed triple digits in those eight games (the second such stretch of his career (2014)).
But that’s when things reverted back to old ways. Tannehill, at his absolute professional peak, took a shot to the knee by Cardinals Defensive Tackle Calais Campbell. As a result, Tannehill would miss the next 20 games (including Miami’s playoff game that season) and return more than 630 days later.
— DolphinsQBgifs (@DolphinsQBgifs) March 11, 2019
The first video in this column comes from that game. Gase, who insisted to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, that [Gase] “had Tannehill exactly where [Gase] wanted him – [Tannehill] is going to have a monster year,” tried once more to get his quarterback up-to-speed in the tempo, shotgun-based attack.
Miami’s offense was good enough in the first three games of the year, but bottomed out entirely the following two games in New England and Cincinnati. Tannehill would miss the next five games before returning with a shoulder held together by Scotch Tape.
Behind Tannehill, the Dolphins offense ranked near the bottom of the league in all major offensive categories including third down percentage and yards-per-game.
Pre-injury, at his best, Tannehill was a highly gifted quarterback that oozed upside. Before Tannehill arrived, Miami was a hotbed of lousy quarterback play. With a new opening day starter just about every year post-Marino, Tannehill provided Miami something they did not reciprocate – stability. Perhaps things could’ve been different if the Dolphins offered a semblance of said-stability, or if the team ever managed to put together an offensive line better than bottom-tier.
Even as Tannehill’s biggest proponent, and perpetuator of his 2016 season providing a sign of change, it’s time to admit that the former Aggie was ultimately a failure as a Dolphin.
Today, that is undeniable. Onto the next.
Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts
As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.
The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.
We have been awarded CB Javaris Davis from Kansas City and have waived/non-football injury TE Michael Roberts. We have also placed the following players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: LS Blake Ferguson, DT Benito Jones and CB Cordrea Tankersley. pic.twitter.com/0l3CD2H4Rv
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) July 27, 2020
Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.
A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.
Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.
At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.
In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game
If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.
Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.
The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.
Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.
The Better Player Plays
With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.
In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?
We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.
Not only did Brian Flores refuse to do anything he felt would not give his team the best chance to win, and not only were free agents impressed, but they got their QB. They got Tua. A new era for the Miami Dolphins.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 24, 2020
Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.
Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.
Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?
I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.
Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.
Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.
Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.
There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…
The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.
Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.
A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.
Yards & TDs Given Up Over The Past 2 Seasons
Richard Sherman 713 / 3
Byron Jones 981 / 5
Joe Haden 1,068 / 9
Tre White 1,087 / 2
Stephon Gilmore 1,117 / 5
Darius Slay 1,214 / 9
Marcus Peters 1,376 / 12
Jalen Ramsey 1,405 / 4
Marshon Lattimore 1,492 / 6
Jaire Alexander 1,649 / 8
— A Fan’s Edition (@AFansEdition) July 23, 2020
In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.
And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.
Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:
- Learn his way around the NFL
- Understand the playbook better
- Observe the game from the sideline
- Gain chemistry with his receivers
Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…
I’m Sure He’s Healthy…
Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.
While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.
The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.
Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.
Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.
The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.
Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen
After a breakout 2019 campaign, it looks like Mike Gesicki will have some competition.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Miami Dolphins have traded a 2021 6th-round pick to the Chicago Bears for tight end Adam Shaheen.
Bears are trading TE Adam Shaheen to the Dolphins for a conditional 2021 sixth-round draft pick, per source with knowledge of the transaction.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 25, 2020
A former 2nd-round pick (2017) out of Ashland University (Division II), Shaheen excelled during the combine, which led to an increase in his draft stock. The Bears jumped at the opportunity of molding a raw prospect, and selected Shaheen with the 45th pick in the draft. He was the 5th tight end taken in the draft that year, well above where he was originally projected when he declared for the NFL.
Though the Bears were optimistic, it seems Shaheen hasn’t lived up to his draft status. After three seasons, Shaheen has 26 receptions for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns. His playtime has diminished from 239 offensive snaps in 2017, to 160 in 2018 and 174 in 2019; with injuries playing a part the past two seasons. For comparisons sake, Durham Smythe had 482 offensive snaps last season alone (Shaheen has 573 for his career).
Shaheen became expendable after the Bears drafted Cole Kmet in the 2nd-round of the 2020 draft and signed Jimmy Graham to a 2-year contract earlier this offseason. With 8 tight ends on the Chicago Bears roster, you know something had to give. And from the perspective of a Bears’ fan, receiving any compensation for a likely roster cut is rewarding enough.
Trading a 6th-round pick means Shaheen is a favorite to win one of the backup tight end spots, should the Dolphins keep 3 on their roster.
It’s unlikely that Shaheen is a possible replacement for Smythe, as Shaheen is meant to be a receiving threat more than an in-line blocker, but there is so much untapped potential with Shaheen that it’s hard to guess what the Dolphins will receive from him.
We assume Mike Gesicki will continue to grow, but behind him, the cupboard is pretty barren. Shaheen adds much-needed depth to a tight end room that currently includes Smythe, Michael Roberts, Chris Myarick and undrafted rookie Bryce Sterk.
These Adam Shaheen receptions are all from the same drive. Wouldn’t be a surprise to see him more comfortable in year two coming from Ashland.
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 12, 2018
- Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts July 27, 2020
- In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game July 27, 2020
- Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen July 25, 2020
- Miami Dolphins’ Jones and Howard land in top 10 CB rankings June 24, 2020
- Are the Dolphins Done Reshaping the Roster for 2020? May 19, 2020